11:46 am Jun. 28, 2012
One year ago, Donnie Walsh, the man who rebuilt the New York Knicks, announced that he was leaving his job as team president. He said he was doing so because he didn't want to commit to the role, given his age and health.
"My intention is not to go find a job with somebody else," Walsh said at the time.
Other sticking points, according to reports, included Walsh's insistence that he be given complete autonomy, an option that is not available in James Dolan's Knicks organization.
The decision by Walsh to become team president for the Indiana Pacers this week seems to affirm that he wasn't tired of his job, but was simply tired of doing it In New York.
Consider that his role with Indiana is exactly the same job he left at Madison Square Garden. He's not likely to have full autonomy there, either; he'll be working with General Manager Kevin Pritchard, who will be providing much of the scouting oversight and, presumably, decision-making.
The Pacers are likely to be one of the teams battling the Knicks for supremacy in the Eastern Conference over the next several years. They just took Miami to six games in a hotly contested series, suggesting that for all the Knicks' moves, the Pacers were ahead of them last season. And the Indiana core is young: Their top four players, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Paul George and George Hill, are 28, 25, 21 and 25.
Now Walsh gets to fill in around a young group, since Indiana stayed under the salary cap. It is precisely what he wanted to do in New York, until Dolan pushed him aside to add Carmelo Anthony and trade a collection of young talent Walsh had assembled around Amar'e Stoudemire.
It's more complicated than that, of course: The Knicks have Tyson Chandler and probbably, Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak now as part of their group going forward. But the next few years will be as close to a real-world test of alternate paths as the N.B.A. can generally provide.
It isn't hard to understand why, in the end, Walsh found the energy and motivation to give that experiment a try.