GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Donnie Walsh doesn’t know if he is wanted back by the New York Knicks, and says now is not the time to ask.
With the Knicks on pace for their first playoff appearance since 2004, the team president was embarrassed this week to see a few stories about his future with the team. Specifically, that he may not have one.
There have been no discussions with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan about the option on his contract for next season. And while that may bother fans who don’t want to see Walsh leave, he doesn’t seem at all concerned.
“I really haven’t given it a lot of thought, all right, because it’s not the time to give it thought,” Walsh said Thursday after practice. “I do have an option, but it’s two months from now, three months from now. I don’t think it’s the time when I would expect an owner or myself to be even thinking about it. I’m more worried about the trading deadline, I’m more worried about the team, I’m more worried about a lot of things and I really haven’t thought about it.”
Walsh is in his third season with the Knicks, the one he targeted for the team to be moving forward after two years spent worrying almost entirely about the salary cap. The Knicks are 25-23, sixth in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps even in position to end their franchise-worst streak of nine consecutive losing seasons.
Considering the Knicks finished with only 23 wins twice in the last five seasons, it would seem Walsh has done enough to secure his future in New York. But if he has, nobody has told him.
Walsh said he hasn’t spoken in some time to Dolan, but said his boss is honest with him when they do talk and has no reason to believe there is any disappointment in his performance.
“(Dolan) has always been forthright with me and talked to me. I haven’t got any problems with him,” Walsh said. “As a person I like him, so I don’t get all this.”
Dolan hasn’t taken questions from the media since giving Isiah Thomas, Walsh’s predecessor, a contract extension in March 2007. Nor did he comment on Walsh last summer after a report that the president was considering retirement. Dolan’s spokesman, Barry Watkins, said MSG does not comment on anyone’s contractual situation.
But it became an issue this week in the media, including a Yahoo! Sports column on Wednesday that claims Dolan still talks regularly with Thomas, a Dolan favorite whom he tried to rehire as a consultant last summer. It quoted a source familiar with their conversations as saying that “Isiah knows more about where Donnie stands with Dolan than Donnie knows himself.”
“I’m looking for a grassy knoll with some of the stuff I’m reading now,” Walsh said. “So the one thing I would like to say is that I don’t believe any of it, all right? And for one reason. The one thing I do know about Jim Dolan is he’s honest. So I don’t believe any of this stuff. I think he’ll deal with me honestly and that’s what I’ve always thought.”
Coach Mike D’Antoni, who has said Walsh is one of the reasons he came to New York, said Walsh “is great, no doubt about it,” but wouldn’t get into the contract issue.
“That’s something that he’ll take care of and management will take care of, and then it’ll work its way out,” D’Antoni said. “I’ve got so many other problems. I need to worry about the rebounding and stuff like that.”
Walsh wants to return, but he’ll turn 70 next month and has battled health problems, so he said his desire is “probably not as important as when I was 40.” The longtime executive said he always received fair deals in Indiana once the Pacers became good, and even worked on a handshake deal and took no money in his final year so the team could afford to pay Larry Bird.
Worrying about a contract is not something Walsh does.
“I don’t even give it a thought. I’ve done this for 30 years now and I do the same things the same way I did in the first year. I mean, you come in every day, you work and you try to make the team better. I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen in the summer and all that,” Walsh said. “I just do whatever I think is good for the interest of the franchise that day.”
Walsh made the Knicks respectable and financially responsible again, getting them under the salary cap last season for the first time since the mid-1990s. They missed out on LeBron James but signed All-Star Amare Stoudemire and are considered the favorite to land Carmelo Anthony if he leaves Denver, putting them in position to be competitive for years to come.
A New York native, Walsh wants to see the Knicks back in the playoffs, but isn’t sure if that’s necessary to ensure his return.
“I really don’t know. Nobody’s told me that,” he said. “You guys are bringing up all these issues. I haven’t heard them either from management, Mr. Dolan. Look, I think he wants the franchise to be going in the right direction. I hope it is. If it isn’t, then I understand. It’s that simple.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.