NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The Donnie Walsh era at Madison Square Garden is over.
Walsh will not return as president of the Knicks, who must find someone else to continue the building job he started.
The Knicks announced Friday that Walsh will not return when his contract expires at the end of June.
“Donnie Walsh and I have mutually agreed that he will be leaving his position,” MSG chairman James Dolan said in a statement. “Donnie will remain with the team as a consultant for the 2011-12 season.”
But the man responsible for bringing excitement back to the Garden will still hold the reigns for the NBA draft on June 23.
“He will stay through the draft,” WFAN’s Craig Carton told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, “and once the draft is over he will leave the job.”
Carton added: “From what I understand, it came down to future control of the organization.”
Walsh spent three seasons in New York, leading a massive rebuilding job that got the team back into the playoffs this season following the acquisitions of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
But Dolan didn’t pick up his option for next season, and the two couldn’t agree on terms of an extension.
The 70-year-old Walsh said he decided Thursday that he wasn’t up to Dolan’s request that he stay on for at least two years.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go and devote myself multiyear. On the other hand, I understand why he would want that,” Walsh said on a conference call.
Walsh’s departure is a major loss for the Knicks and opens questions about whether coach Mike D’Antoni will return for the final year of his contract though Walsh indicated D’Antoni would stay.
“I know that he is the guy that can take this team to the next level,” Walsh said. “Mike wants to see the job through.”
“In a relatively short time with the Knicks, Donnie made a tremendous impact, which will be felt for many years to come,” Dolan said. “We thank Donnie for his leadership, hard work and many contributions to the revitalization of the team.”
Senior vice president Glen Grunwald will serve as interim general manager.
Walsh and D’Antoni arrived in New York following the 2007-08 season and immediately went to work cleaning up the mess left by Isiah Thomas, who had served in both roles. For Walsh, that meant spending two seasons reducing one of the league’s highest payrolls, getting the Knicks far enough under the salary cap to afford two top players last summer.
The Knicks got only Stoudemire but traded for Anthony in February and finished 42-40, their first winning record in a decade. They were swept by Boston in their first postseason since 2004, and the roster needs significant upgrades to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Walsh had said he wanted to return, but he has battled health problems.
“I do miss my wife and my family, and this is a 24-7 situation, as a lot of GM situations are. This is even more intense,” Walsh said. “I’m running out of energy.”
Walsh denied any friction with Dolan or Thomas, whom the owner has remained close with and was nearly hired last summer as an adviser.
“I don’t think Isiah Thomas had anything to do with basically anything I’m doing now,” Walsh said, calling reports of Thomas’ involvement “an annoyance.”
His draft record in New York was underwhelming – high lottery picks Danilo Gallinari and Jordan Hill are already gone, though Gallinari was used in the Anthony trade – but Walsh always said his focus was free agency, believing that was the quickest way to rebuild a team.
“I think I did that,” Walsh said. “I think I did the first step of that.”
“With some of the NBA’s premier players, an outstanding coach and one of the league’s most passionate and loyal fan bases, we are extremely confident about the future of the Knicks franchise,” Dolan said.
Full statement from Knicks owner James Dolan:
“Following a long series of discussions regarding his future role with the New York Knicks, Donnie Walsh and I have mutually agreed that he will be leaving his position as president, basketball operations of the Knicks at the end of June. Donnie will remain with the team as a consultant for the 2011-12 season. In a relatively short time with the Knicks, Donnie made a tremendous impact, which will be felt for many years to come. We thank Donnie for his leadership, hard work and many contributions to the revitalization of the team.
“We will now begin an immediate search for a new president and general manager, but do not have a timetable for the decision. Glen Grunwald, the Knicks’ senior vice president, basketball operations, will serve as interim general manager beginning in July, overseeing all player transactions. With some of the NBA’s premier players, an outstanding coach and one of the league’s most passionate and loyal fanbases, we are extremely confident about the future of the Knicks franchise.”
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