NEW YORK (AP) -Before giving Mike D'Antoni a job, Donnie Walsh gave him a warning.
The Knicks president told D'Antoni and all the candidates he interviewed for his team's coaching position that his goal was a difficult one: Find a way to turn a loser into a winner now, without messing up plans for the future.
``This is just a tough situation we're coming into. It's going to be a coaching and teaching job, it is not a manager job where you're coming in and just take over a team that's good and do a couple of things and it'll be good,'' Walsh said of those conversations.
``This is going to be a tough thing to deal with. And what we've got to try to do is try to get better right away, get more competitive right away, but at the same time protect our ability to stay under the cap where maybe we can make a significant signing in the future.''
Walsh thinks D'Antoni is the man to help the Knicks do both.
The Knicks introduced D'Antoni as their new coach Tuesday, hoping one of the NBA's top offensive minds can turn around a team with seven straight losing seasons - and make New York an exciting future destination for free agents who want to play his entertaining style.
The former Phoenix Suns coach believes he can win right away, even though the mismatched group of players he inherits makes that difficult to imagine.
``I look at the roster and that's the roster I'm going to win with,'' D'Antoni said. ``My focus is to win this coming year.''
The Knicks probably can't make too many changes to it, since Walsh's desire is to be under the salary cap in the summer of 2010, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all can be free agents. Perhaps the allure of D'Antoni's style would get the Knicks on their list of teams to consider.
``Who wouldn't love to play that way?'' said Knicks forward Quentin Richardson, who tied for the NBA lead with 226 3-pointers while playing for D'Antoni in 2004-05.
The question is whether the Knicks have the personnel to do it. D'Antoni had two-time MVP Steve Nash and a number of quick players who could shoot from the outside in Phoenix, where he won at least 54 games each of the last four seasons and earned coach of the year honors in 2005.
The Knicks are a slower group, with Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph in the frontcourt, and their point guard is uncertain with Stephon Marbury coming off ankle surgery that ended the worst season of his career.
No matter. D'Antoni figures he'll come up with something that works.
``I will adapt what I do. Now I like to play fast, move the ball and all that stuff, and we'll try to do that as best as we can,'' D'Antoni said. ``Obviously you're going to be a little slower than (the Suns), but at the same time there's no reason why you can't run, be exciting and have good ball movement.''
The Knicks are counting on it, giving D'Antoni a $24 million, four-year contract to become their 24th coach. Walsh is certain he has the right man - though he referred to his new coach as Mike ``D'Antonio,'' before quickly correcting himself.
``I thought that Mike was the best guy to choose because I think he's been in situations like we have right now and he did a good job with those situations,'' Walsh said.
D'Antoni replaces Isiah Thomas, who was fired last month after going 56-108 in two seasons. New York was 23-59 last season, matching the franchise record for losses.
The 57-year-old D'Antoni went 253-136 in Phoenix, but the Suns let him talk to other clubs about their jobs after losing to San Antonio in the first round. He chose the Knicks over the Chicago Bulls, citing his comfort with Walsh and his desire to live in New York.
After firing Thomas, Walsh took his time with his search, interviewing TV analyst Mark Jackson, coaches Rick Carlisle and Avery Johnson, and Knicks assistant Herb Williams before settling on D'Antoni.
Despite his impressive record, D'Antoni's hiring has drawn criticism because his teams in Phoenix were never strong defensively - a critique that both amuses and annoys him.
``I know one thing for sure,'' D'Antoni said. ``We averaged 58 wins in four years, so 58 times a year we were the best defensive team on the floor, I do know that.''
There's no questioning D'Antoni's offense. He turned the Suns into the NBA's most potent team, relying on a system that focused on taking a shot in the first 7 seconds of the shot clock, many of them 3-pointers.
D'Antoni said he still wants to play fast and believes many of his new players are capable of it.
``We were 7 seconds or less and the rules say you have to be 24 seconds or less,'' D'Antoni said. ``So we can adjust it to anything we want.''

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