Walsh's wish list?

April, 2, 2008

At his introductory press conference as Knicks president, Donnie Walsh was correct in saying he'll sit down with Isiah Thomas and others before determining Zeke's fate. It's the polite, professional and, to use Walsh's word, "proper" thing to do.

But inside, Walsh has to realize that the culture surrounding the Knicks is too soiled, too contaminated to do anything but clean house and start anew. So Isiah must go.

While we don't have the final word yet on the future of Thomas and his VP of basketball operations, Glen Grunwald, it appears that Walsh will probably be looking to add a general manager and a new coach to his staff. That being the case, here are some the names Walsh should consider for the GM and coach positions.

In no particular order:

GM candidates
Billy King, former 76ers GM: King, who was fired in December after 10 seasons in Philadelphia, has been vindicated by the Sixers' impressive second-half surge into the playoffs. He traded Allen Iverson for Andre Miller, and he drafted Andre Iguodala, Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young. He also made the decision to hire coach Mo Cheeks, who's turned in one of the best performances of the year. He'd be great under Walsh and a good man to eventually succeed him.

David Griffin, Suns VP of basketball operations: Griffin helped build the juggernaut in Phoenix under Bryan Colangelo, and had strong input on the recent trade for Shaquille O'Neal. He's one of the game's brightest young minds and is on Milwaukee's short list of GM candidates.

Lance Blanks, Cavs assistant GM: The best places to find bright executives are within winning franchises, and Blanks has been with the best. He spent five seasons in San Antonio's front office, where he helped build the league's team of the decade. He's in his third season in Cleveland and helped pull off this year's trade deadline deal (Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, etc. …) that improved the Cavaliers yet maintained their future salary cap flexibility.

Kiki Vandeweghe, Nets interim GM: Kiki's track record in Denver is well known. The Nets want to keep him, but he knows the bright lights are on the other side of the Hudson River. He's also a former Knick.

Scott Perry, Sonics assistant GM: Perry worked in Detroit's front office for seven years before joining the Sonics this season. He was the Pistons' director of player personnel under Joe Dumars from 2002 to 2007, when Detroit reached five straight Eastern Conference finals. He played a major role in the drafting of Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson.

Chris Mullin, Warriors VP of basketball operations: Mullin's the Warriors' lead basketball guy, so who knows if he'd be willing to leave? But he is from New York, so the idea of resurrecting the Knicks would surely intrigue him. He knows how tough it can be to work in New York, but he'd be protected from media scrutiny under Walsh. Then, in a few years, he could take over.

Coach candidates
Mark Jackson, ABC broadcaster: Walsh hired former players (Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas) with no prior coaching experience in Indiana and both times it worked out pretty well (Zeke had a winning record as Indiana's coach). Jackson was a coach on the floor during his playing career, and he's a native New Yorker and a former Knick.

Tom Thibodeau, Celtics assistant coach: He's helped mold the Celtics' league-best defense as an assistant under Doc Rivers. Plus, he'd be a connection to the Knicks' last successful stint, as he was an assistant under Jeff Van Gundy in New York. Also worked under Van Gundy in Houston, so you know he's defense first.

Rick Carlisle, ESPN broadcaster: Carlisle's been successful in both places he's been -- Detroit and Indiana. As Walsh said, the Knicks do have talent, and Carlisle could get them playing close to their potential. He's a strong candidate for the Bulls job, which also is expected to be vacant.

Michael Curry, Pistons assistant coach: An NBA journeyman throughout his playing career, Curry's long been viewed as a great leader, and this year he's learning under one of the league's top offensive coaches, Flip Saunders.

Mike Budenholzer, Spurs assistant coach: Not sure if he'd be interested, but he's worth contacting. He's been an assistant in San Antonio for 12 years, so he's learned under the great Gregg Popovich and helped win four titles.

Paul Silas, former NBA coach: He was very successful in Charlotte/New Orleans, and considering Cleveland's youth, he did a good job there.

Scott Skiles, former NBA coach: Skiles has been a good coach, and his experiences in Phoenix and Chicago should make him better his third time around.

Terry Porter, Pistons assistant coach: Porter did a good job in Milwaukee, leading the Bucks to a stunning playoff run in his first season (2004). Injuries derailed his club the next year and he was unfairly fired.

Avery Johnson, Mavs coach: Speculation is that Johnson could be in trouble if the Mavericks miss the playoffs. I'm not sure about that, but if he becomes available, he'd be high on my list.



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