At the close of business Thursday, NBA front office legend Donnie Walsh will be stepping down from the Knicks front office to take a “consulting” role with the team. Given his clash with clown owner James Dolan, it’s unknown how much say Walsh will really have. What is known is that the interim general manager will be Walsh right hand man and former Toronto Raptors GM Glen Grunwald. The journey of Glen Grunwald is an interesting one. To me, he seems like a man who has paid his dues and has plenty of basketball experience as both a player and a front office man. Him and Isiah Thomas, yes that Isiah Thomas, were co-captains on Indiana’s 1981 championship team. He was drafted in the 5th round by the Celtics but never played in the NBA. Grunwald graduated from Northwestern with a law degree and Indiana with a Business Administration degree. After spending time with the Nuggets, Grundwald’s first big job came as Isiah’s right hand man when Thomas was hired as the Raptors general manager during their 1994 inception. In 1997 Thomas’ bid to become owner in Toronto failed and he resigned. Grunwald was hired as GM. He made many successful personnel moves, such as trading for Vince Carter, Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis and trading Damon Stoudamire away, in building a winner out of a perennial lottery team. He built a strong team around Vince Carter and they made the playoffs from 1999-2002. His veteran teams got old and injury riddled quickly and began to lose games. In the 2004 draft, Grunwald selected Chris Bosh fourth overall and the team fell just short of the 8th seed in the eastern conference. Grunwald was then fired. He became the President and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade before returning to Isiah Thomas’ side as senior VP of basketball operations with the Knicks in 2006. When Thomas was relieved of his duties in 2008, Donnie Walsh was brought in and kept Grunwald in the same position he held under Thomas. Now Walsh is the one who is leaving and Grunwald is now the man in charge. Although the Isiah Thomas friendship and prior experience is obviously alarming for Knick fans, I’ve read numerous times from different writers that Grunwald is not seen as a Thomas loyalist by anybody around the league. It will be interesting to see if Grunwald has big enough balls to stand up to the Thomas-Dolan marriage. Clearly Walsh could not get what he needed out of the moronic owner, it remains to be seen if Grunwald will be able to. The people in place right now seem to be Grunwald’s people so there shouldn’t be much of a transition or dispute over personnel as we know Dolan rules the organization with his moronic tyrannical ways. While Walsh was calling the shots, I believe Grunwald has had a bigger role in both free agent recruiting and personnel decisions than anybody has been led on to believe. Grunwald does have ties to CAA which has to appeal to Dolan as he seems to be inclined to let the agency run the entire organization. Grunwald’s ties to Thomas and CAA would seemingly make him a strong candidate to be hired as the general manager once the upcoming lockout is resolved.
Grunwald’s goal is simple: Build a supporting cast around Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. The goal seems simple but it may not be. Thanks to Walsh, Grunwald no longer has to build the team but he needs to surround the building blocks with talent. Given his past history of personnel decisions, I feel somewhat confident in his abilities. While he’s not seen as an Isiah disciple, the looming dark cloud of Thomas’ influence is still surrounding the organization and Grunwald’s prior relationship with him scares me. If anything Grunwald’s tenure should be interesting but beware Knick fans, the job is far from finished. As Dallas showed Miami in the finals, basketball is still a team sport and basketball is played with 5 men at a time, not 2 or 3. If the Knicks don’t build the right supporting cast, this team will never reach the pinnacle that Knick fans expect it to each.
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