Donnie Walsh in talks to keep Pace
BY FRANK ISOLA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Saturday, March 22nd 2008, 4:00 AM
Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh met Friday with his team's co-owners, Herbert and Melvin Simon, to work out a deal that could keep Walsh in Indiana and prevent him from replacing Isiah Thomas in New York.
The Simon brothers would prefer to keep Walsh and have him reassume control over personnel decisions from Pacers president Larry Bird. A person close to Walsh said the talks could drag into next week and that the longer they continue, the more likely it is that Walsh will stay in Indiana.
Garden chairman James Dolan met with Thomas prior to the Knicks' 120-106 loss on Friday night to the awful Memphis Grizzlies at the Garden. The loss dropped the awful Knicks to 19-49 heading into Saturday night's game in Minnesota. The crowd was generously announced as a sellout, with about 5,000 of those on hand there to see and chant for Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro, who had 17 points off the bench as Memphis snapped its 18-game road losing streak.
Dolan did not watch the game from his baseline seat and it is unclear if he has another meeting planned with Walsh, with whom he met last week in Indiana. If the Simon brothers work out a deal to keep Walsh in Indiana, there is no shortage of candidates to succeed Thomas as the Knicks' president. Jerry Colangelo and Jerry West reportedly are interested but it is believed neither has been contacted.
Other candidates include Nets assistant GM Kiki Vandeweghe, former Knick players Greg Anthony and Mark Jackson, former Sixers GM Billy King, Nuggets VP of basketball operations Mark Warkentien and perhaps even former Knicks president Ernie Grunfeld, who is with Washington.
Thomas continues to deny that he is upset over reports that he is about to be replaced.
"Comes with the territory of losing," he said. "That's just the way it goes. When you lose you're definitely subject to speculation. ... When you're losing, this is said about you and you knuckle up and you get better. I don't talk about my job status."
Thomas wouldn't say much about Walsh, who gave him his first head coaching job with the Pacers. The Knicks secretly negotiated with Thomas prior to firing Scott Layden. The Daily News reported on Tuesday that Dolan had met with Walsh.
"I have great respect for Donnie," Thomas said. "He gave me my first job in terms of coaching in this league. ... I haven't heard Donnie say anything. When you talk to him and he responds to whatever it is you're writing, then I'll respond."
DENY, DENY, DENY: Incredibly, Thomas continues to deny he attempted to trade Zach Randolph to Milwaukee even though the Bucks' owner, Sen. Herb Kohl, on Wednesday confirmed a report in The News that he had rejected a deal for Randolph and Fred Jones.
"He's not accurate," Thomas said. "I don't know what he and his GM discussed, but I know there wasn't discussion from our end in terms of trading Zach to Milwaukee."
Thomas could not say why Kohl would make up the trade proposal. "I can only speak from our end," he said. "I normally don't discuss trades or trade rumors, but since this was talked about by the owner of the team, maybe there was something that they were thinking about. But we never were on that path." Asked if he were upset with Kohl, Thomas added: "Highly unusual for an owner to speak that way."