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Walsh Watch: What's taking so long?

DONNIE WALSH HIGH: Walsh’s high came in the

DONNIE WALSH

HIGH: Walsh’s high came in the offseason when he was able to convince free agent Amar’e Stoudemire to sign with the Knicks. Finally, the Knicks captured a high-profile free agent to play under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. If Amar’e doesn’t sign with the Knicks, does Anthony come to the Knicks in the February trade?
Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr., 2008

Aside from zealous doomsday prophecies and premature assurances trumpeted as exhaustive reporting, the only news to announce regarding Donnie Walsh's unsettled future with the Knicks franchise is that the guarantee of him returning for at least next season passed a week ago.

So all that can be said with conviction -- none of this "could" and "if" garbage -- is that until an agreement is reached, Walsh's tenure as team president will end on July 1.

That much is fact. And, at this point, it's the only fact and, as such, the most alarming fact of all. 

One of the most underreported details of Walsh's three years in New York is the time and distance he has spent away from his wife, Judy, who remained back at the family's home in Indianapolis. Walsh has lived in an Upper West Side apartment that is luxurious and well-appointed, but despite high-end accessories and furnishings, it lacks one important element: his beloved wife.

Sure, she could move to New York. Judy, like Donnie, is a native New Yorker. But Indiana is where the family has been for over three decades. The kids were born and raised there and most still live there, along with grandchildren. Walsh's daily routine is somewhat monotonous: wake alone, head to the training center to watch practice, work in the office, head home (again, alone), occasionally have dinner with a friend or relative in the city (for instance, his brother) and then go to bed (alone).

Obviously there has been a lot of work to do in rebuilding this team and there are hardly many quiet moments, not with us beat writers calling him throughout the day, and sometimes night, asking about every rumor and every bit of speculation. The best thing about having Walsh here is that he is amazingly accessible and treats everyone in the press equally. That means he doesn't play favorites and for some who were used to things a different way in the past, that's clearly unacceptable behavior.

Personally, I've mostly enjoyed the ability to talk basketball with Donnie before games at the Garden. His routine on game nights is to sit behind the scorer's table and watch his players warm-up and chat with anyone who comes his way. The press always surrounded him with questions, but once the crowd scattered, he'd sit and watch and talk about the league, the game and, at times, the future of the team. He'd rarely reveal much that would create breaking news, but his perspective on things made those chats, to me, invaluable.

I can say this with conviction: Walsh wants to finish the job here. This will most likely be his last stop, which is something he's suggested before. The plan was to build this team into a championship contender and leave a legacy in New York, where it all started for him in the Bronx, at Fordham Prep.

The time in New York hasn't been easy, no. He endured three surgeries, for starters. Yes, the Isiah thing hung over the franchise for a long time and there were suddenly a lot of cooks in the kitchen when July 2010 came around.

He has until June 30, but what is there to decide? It has been widely reported (first by our old pal, Ken Berger at CBSSports.com) that James Dolan plans to offer Walsh a two-year extension. But there has to be more than just a standard two-year deal in place here. There has to be some kind of retirement strategy, that includes a transition of power to Walsh's successor, whom he would groom along the way. Walsh may also remain under contract after his tenure as president ends to be a well-paid advisor. Then he can live back at home with Judy in Indianapolis, which has to be an appealing result. 

I've heard through mutliple sources that this is a conversation that is happening strictly between Walsh and Dolan. And Walsh is also negotiating with himself here. On one hand he has Judy, his beloved dogs and getting away from the relentless insanity of the New York coverage (yes, we play a part in this). There is an obvious issue with Isiah's alleged meddling from the periphery. And, at 70 years old, how much does he want to deal with all of the nonsense that goes along with this job.

On the other hand, how much of the Isiah influence is his own self-promotion through the media rather than something brewing from within? The only trust that matters here exists between Walsh and Dolan. Walsh still loves the competition and the energy that comes with building a team, challenging for the playoffs and measuring up against the league's elite.  Deep down there are still traces of Indiana Pacers blood -- he can't even talk about the Larry Johnson four-point play -- but at the core he's a New Yorker and a basketball man. And he loves the roar of the Garden and the feeling that the franchise is back on its feet.

Tomorrow it'll be a week since the April 30 deadline passed, but all that date meant was that Walsh would be guaranteed one more year and we'd then spend the next season talking about how he's in the last year of his deal. Neither side wants that. The question that Walsh needs to answer is if everything that comes with the job -- the media, the Isiah speculation, the distance from his wife -- is worth it for another few years.

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