Garden Party

NEW YORK — Donnie Walsh is taking over the New York Knicks, and he's doing so on his own terms.

An NBA source told ESPN.com on Wednesday that the Knicks yielded to Walsh's wishes on several key terms regarding authority and autonomy in reaching agreement on a four-year deal that installs Walsh as the new team president.

The Knicks are expected to introduce Walsh at a news conference at 1 p.m. ET.

Walsh will report directly to owner James Dolan, rather than to Madison Square Garden president Steve Mills, as was the arrangement under previous Knicks administrations.

Walsh will also have the authority to establish a new media policy, one that presumably will allow him — and the Knicks' players — to have full freedom of speech.

Less clear is the future of Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas, who was with the team in Memphis on Wednesday morning after New York (20-54 with eight games left) lost in overtime at Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

The hiring of Walsh means that Thomas has now been stripped of his team presidency, and the question of how — or if — the Knicks plan to part ways with Thomas as coach will be the first test of Walsh's leadership.

Sources told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that Walsh is expected to retain Thomas for the time being. Thomas signed a long-term contract extension 13 months ago, and it is possible Dolan will want to keep him aboard in some capacity.

Walsh's contract is worth about $20 million over four years, although the final year is not fully guaranteed, a source close to the Knicks told ESPN.com.

Word of Walsh's hiring came a few hours after the Knicks' loss to the Bucks, but Thomas was asked following the game if he would have any regrets if his tenure as coach was about to end.

"No, I look back and I look at what we started with and where we're going and I think we have a very bright future," Thomas said.

Walsh recently announced he was leaving the Pacers after 24 years with the organization. He joined the Pacers' front office as general manager in 1986, became team president in 1988 and CEO in 2003. He helped the franchise rise from NBA laughingstock to title contender.

Indiana reached the Eastern Conference finals six times and won the Central Division four times during Walsh's stay as an executive. The Pacers reached the NBA Finals in 2000, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, and had the league's best record in 2004.

"I've often, when I needed some basketball advice, he's on a short list of people that I pick up the phone and call around the league for just basketball matters," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week. "And he works and works and works."

Walsh has had a lesser role in recent years since the Pacers hired Larry Bird as their president in 2003. Walsh had previously said he wouldn't reveal any plans about his future until after the season.

The Knicks haven't won a playoff game since Thomas arrived as president in December 2003 and could be headed for the first 60-loss season in franchise history. Reports surfaced late last month that Dolan had preliminary talks with Walsh. Negotiations moved quickly, with the Knicks apparently interviewing only him.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 4573572.
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...