|Indiana Pacers players say speculation about CEO Donnie Walsh not a distraction|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 March 2008 03:35|
Walsh announced his plans Monday to resign from his position with the Pacers effective at season's end, and there have been reports that he has agreed to oversee basketball operations for the New York Knicks. Pacers spokesman David Benner said Tuesday that Walsh hasn't agreed to anything.
The Pacers say the constant talk actually made Walsh's announcement less of a distraction.
``We heard all the speculation about it, so we kind of expected something to happen - we just didn't know what,'' Danny Granger said. ``It was going to come sooner or later.''
As the reports were circulating, the Pacers put together their best run of the season - a four-game winning streak - before Tuesday's 114-106 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Forward Shawne Williams, a key contributor during the streak, said he understands Walsh's decision, and said he'd still respect Walsh if he went elsewhere.
``It's business,'' Williams said. ``They (the organization) had to make me look at it like that because, me being young, I'm not used to changes like that. I just say it's business - no hard feelings. He's still my man.''
The Pacers have turned over operation of the troubled franchise to Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
Talk of Walsh going to the Knicks is likely to heat up Wednesday when Indiana travels to New Jersey for a game with the Nets. Benner, however, said Walsh would not be making the trip.
On Monday night, ESPN.com reported that Walsh will go to the Knicks. The Web site, citing an unidentified source, said he was expected to sign a three-year, $15 million contract with the Knicks at the end of this season.
What would happen to embattled Knicks coach and team president Isiah Thomas once Walsh joined the Knicks was not known, ESPN.com reported.
Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz told the AP the team would not comment on the report.
``As far as what I'm going to do, I'm not sure,'' the 67-year-old Walsh said at his news conference. ``As a result, I'm not going to comment on it until I have a better idea.''
In New York, Thomas wouldn't comment on speculation that Walsh could replace him, but praised his former boss with the Pacers.
``I don't comment on my job status and I'm sure not going to comment on anything that Donnie chooses to do or not do,'' Thomas said before the Knicks played Monday.
``He's had a great career, he's one of the best who's ever done it. I wish him great success and he's someone that I respect tremendously. He gave me my first coaching job and I truly do like him as a person and he's done a lot for the game.''
Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said the announcement on Walsh's decision was made now rather than the end of the season because ``everyone was getting confused.''
``There were lots of rumors,'' he said. ``Once I was convinced Donnie was really leaving, I thought it was best to let everyone else know.''
Walsh mentioned the possibility of retirement several times last season, when the Pacers went 35-47 and missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
``I really don't think this should come as a surprise,'' he said. ``I said this would be my last year, and now I'm completing what has been my dream job.''
Walsh, who joined the Pacers as an assistant coach in 1984, became general manager in 1986 and president two years later. He hired Bird as coach in 1997, and after Bird moved into the front office in 2003, Walsh groomed him as his eventual successor.
``My real reason is, I think I've been here too long,'' Walsh said. ``It's not healthy for the franchise. ``I started thinking that the last two or three years. But you also want to see things get better.''
As president of basketball operations, Bird has shared many of the day-to-day operations with Walsh in recent years, a division of authority that has often led to confusion in dealing with other teams, Walsh said.
``Now it's one voice; it's mine,'' Bird said. ``Pressure is pressure. I've dealt with it in the past, and I'm looking forward to it.''
The Pacers reached the Eastern Conference finals six times and won the Central Division four times under Walsh. They made the NBA finals in 2000, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, and had the league's best record in 2004 before the franchise began unraveling.
``It was a joy to spend time in Indiana under his leadership. Great man and a great basketball mind,'' said Mark Jackson, who played on the Pacers' finals team. ``Sad to see, being a member of the Pacers and knowing what he means to that organization and that community, but at the same time I wish him nothing but the very best because like I said, he's a great man and a great basketball mind. He's the best in the business.''
Starting with the brawl involving Indiana players and Detroit Pistons fans, the past three seasons have been marked by losses, personnel changes and off-court issues.
Former Pacer Stephen Jackson pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness for firing gunshots in the air during a 2006 fight at a strip club. This year, Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley and several companions were targeted in a shooting that wounded the team's equipment manager outside a downtown hotel. And Tinsley and Marquis Daniels recently cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial on charges in a separate fight at a nightclub.
Recently, a murder suspect was arrested after he had been at the home of Williams, and a rape was reported at Daniels' home. Neither player was charged and police said Daniels was not a suspect in the rape.
AP Sports Writer Steve Herman in Indianapolis and AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.