Donnie Walsh suffered through two years of having his team mocked -- mocking, he says, that was born of fear the Knicks would someday return to prominence.
As they host the Raptors tonight with a playoff berth locked up, Walsh sounded as if the Knicks are on the way to becoming the contender he set out to build.
With the option on the final year of his contract coming up April 30 for owner James Dolan to exercise, it remains to be seen if Walsh returns.
However, two league sources say they believe it is up to Walsh, 70, on whether he comes back next season.
One of those sources said money was a non-issue, but Walsh had a difficult decision to make as to whether he wanted to return or felt his work at the Garden was complete.
"My dream from Day 1 is to put this team on the path to a championship level," Walsh said.
"I don't think it's there now, but we're getting close. That's what I said I'd do in three years. That's what I've done."
Walsh had mixed feelings on gutting the team in the Carmelo Anthony deal, but his three-year rebuilding plan clearly has been a success. Dolan appeared giddy after Sunday's clincher, walking into the locker room to shake each player's hand.
"It was important for me to make the playoffs in our third year, so I felt really good about it," Walsh said.
"From a personal thing, I felt happy. Yeah, [vindicated] a bit. In my mind, we had to make the playoffs by the third year and that would validate [the plan]."
Now Walsh's work is vindicated, but is it finished? It's been a trying three years, from a cancer scare to hip surgery to two seasons of salary-cap purging that left his team the butt of jokes.
"Everybody wants to mock the Knicks because they don't want to see them get good," said Walsh. "I didn't. In Indiana, I didn't want to see the Knicks get good, because they could be good for a long time."
And that's a corner he's convinced his team has turned.
"We're on the way now, yeah. We've got a core group that can be the makings of a very good team," said Walsh, sounding like a man who could walk away content in a job well done.
His contract doesn't expire until June 30, so this month's option deadline could pass without resolution.
If he steps down, possible replacements include Mark Warkentien (hired by the Knicks as a consultant on Jan. 30), ex-Portland GM Kevin Pritchard (whose agent Warren LeGarie also represents Mike D'Antoni), and Toronto's Bryan Colangelo, who hired D'Antoni in Phoenix.
D'Antoni's future may be tied to Walsh's, but he's under contract for another year -- and wants to stay on.
"Yeah, I love what I do, I like my guys, so it's all good," the coach said.
"I'm not focused on that. Hypothetically, I'd love to. But we need to make some noise right now."
D'Antoni also downplayed LeGarie's presence at Sunday's game and yesterday's practice, where he chatted with Walsh.
I agree with NY-Knicks.A lot has been done since he's been here but he wasn't always the one doing it.Let's face it,the thing Walsh can hang his hat on has nothign to do with Amare or Melo.It's getting a $h!t load of cap space. Not saying thats the only thing he did but it's the main thing.The fact that he was the catalyst behind getting Amare or Melo makes me a little uneasy.So far he's been a average GM,which given our former situations,is quite alright by me.That said,we're a playoff team now.We can't take steps back.I wanna see whta he does with the cap space,the draft and most importantly,how loyal he is to Mike D'Antoni.If he is on some "that's my guy and I'm sticking with him" stuff,they can both kick rocks.If he opens his eyes and says look Mike I like you but you're not the guy to get us to the promise land,I'm cool w/ keeping him.
Thats being said,I'd like Kevin Pritchard and Ric Adelman honestly lol
we need to draft well, i think thats the key in getting chris paul here, find another gem like fields ,
on another note, jordan crawford has been tearing it up in DC after being traded from atlanta, knicks shud make a play for nick young in offseason, or see what the price on jamal is as a FA. We shud try and improve our sg/backup role and center position this offseason. our back court scoring is lacking and if landry can get more consistent next season then its all good
Peter Vescey's racist ass doesn't know what he's talking about lmao I find it hard to believe Calipari is leaving his dream college job @ Kentucky to risk failing AGAIN in the pros.
It's not that I believe Peter Vecsey or anything, but I do think Cal wants to get back into the NBA, and NY would be a pretty attractive place for him.
As far as D'Antoni vs Calipari: let me say this first. I despise Calipari and always root for his teams to lose in the NCAA. With that being said, I would rather have him than D'umbtoni. At least with Cal, I think there would be a better commitment to defense.