Bucks join Knicks in pursuit of Pacers' CEO Donnie Walsh
By FRANK ISOLA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Wednesday, March 19th 2008, 4:00 AM
The Knicks are not the only team interested in Donnie Walsh's (l.) services.
Walsh, who hired and fired Isiah Thomas as Pacers coach, may have to give him the ax if he takes the Knicks' job.
If James Dolan is serious about hiring Donnie Walsh, he may have to get a deal done quickly.
Walsh, the Indiana Pacers CEO, has already had talks with the Milwaukee Bucks about replacing general manager Larry Harris, the Daily News has learned. A Knicks official revealed Tuesday that the team is well aware that Milwaukee and at least one other club - possibly Atlanta - have reached out to Walsh.
The same official confirmed that Garden management met with Walsh last week in Indianapolis. Flight records obtained by The News showed that the private jet belonging to Dolan, the Garden chairman, made two trips to Indiana over a 24-hour period last week. The Knicks have not made a formal offer to Walsh.
The Indiana Pacers are hoping to keep Walsh. The News reported on Monday that the Pacers' co-owners, brothers Melvin and Herbert Simon, would prefer to fire team president Larry Bird and hand the reins back to Walsh.
When approached for comment on Monday in Indiana, Walsh declined to talk and seemed uncomfortable that the news of his meeting with the Knicks had become public. Walsh's agent, Steven A. Kauffman, declined comment yesterday, which may be a further indication that Walsh and the Knicks are moving closer to a deal.
That Dolan is talking to the highly accomplished Walsh represents the most encouraging news Knicks fans have heard since Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, Ed Tapscott and Jeff Van Gundy flew to Milwaukee to interview Latrell Sprewell nine years ago. It also confirms that Dolan is committed to mercifully removing Thomas from power and handing the Knicks over to someone with a proven track record who cares about building the Knicks, not just his bank account.
Walsh is the front-runner for the job but there is no guarantee that he will accept it. The 67-year-old Bronx native has established roots in Indiana and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. However, a person close to Walsh maintains that he is looking for a new challenge.
If nothing else, Dolan appears to have found religion. He finally realizes that serious changes must be made. But before anyone shouts "Hallelujah," there is still some question as to whether Dolan will remain a hands-on owner or if he'll grant a person such as Walsh full autonomy.
The first litmus test will be Thomas' future. While most of the NBA can't believe that Thomas is still employed, who's to say that he automatically leaves if Walsh moves into the front office? Sure, Thomas' days as the club's top decision-maker would be over, and people close to Walsh say there is no chance that Walsh would want Thomas as his head coach. But Dolan could insist that Thomas remain in the organization in some capacity, perhaps as Walsh's assistant or as a scout.
I know I have been reading this lately as reported, but have we heard anything official on whether or not the Pacers for sure want to keep Donnie?
Edit: I'm not sure whether this should be under the other NY Daily News thread or because of the Bucks involvement it should be its own. Please move it if necessary.