Knicks hire Walsh

The Baltimore Sun

Donnie Walsh was hired yesterday as president of the New York Knicks, and said he would wait a few days before deciding on Isiah Thomas' future with the organization.

The Knicks hired the longtime Indiana Pacers executive and gave him complete power to oversee basketball operations of a team finishing its seventh straight losing season.

"His mandate is clear -- do whatever is necessary to turn this team around," Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan said.

New York hasn't won a playoff game under Thomas, its president since December 2003. He became coach in June 2006.

Walsh said he believes Thomas can still help the Knicks. Walsh said he won't make any decisions until after he has spoken with Thomas.

"I need to sit down with Isiah and have a meaningful basketball conversation," Walsh said.

Walsh hired Thomas to coach the Pacers in 2000 and said Thomas has a "great basketball mind." Walsh also said he needed to talk to players like Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry before deciding what futures they could have with the team.

Dolan gave Walsh complete autonomy, meaning he could also change the organization's media policy. The Knicks don't allow individual interviews with players or staff unless a public relations official is present, and Walsh is known to be friendly with the media.

"I think access is a big part of most franchises," Walsh said.

Walsh, 67, recently announced he was leaving the Pacers after 24 years with the organization. He joined the Pacers' front office as general manager in 1986, became team president in 1988 and chief executive in 2003. He helped the franchise rise from NBA laughingstock to title contender.

"One of the highest things on my list is Donnie's happiness," Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said. "If that is what he wants, I'm very happy for him. He has given us 24 years of incredible service. I think he'll do a great job."

Indiana reached the Eastern Conference finals six times and won the Central Division four times during Walsh's stay as an executive. The Pacers reached the NBA Finals in 2000, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, and had the league's best record in 2004.

"I've often, when I needed some basketball advice, he's on a short list of people that I pick up the phone and call around the league for just basketball matters," NBA commissioner David Stern said last week. "And he works and works and works."

Bobcats -- Part-owner Michael Jordan remains silent about Sam Vincent's future with Charlotte. Meanwhile, the first-year coach is speaking up. Vincent made a spirited case for his return next season, arguing that his team has made steady progress despite being all but certain to miss the playoffs. Charlotte is 28-46 entering last night's game against the Cavaliers. "Give me a break. Was I really supposed to come in in the first year and have 50 wins?" Vincent said. "Maybe if I was coaching the Celtics team this year. But I just think that some things have to be kept in perspective." Majority owner Bob Johnson defended Vincent on Tuesday, but Jordan has the final say on all basketball decisions. And Jordan hasn't said whether Vincent will return. Vincent said he expects to meet with his former Bulls teammate shortly after the April 16 season finale.

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