We all know that Donnie Walsh was really doomed from Day One when his eccentric, semi-reclusive and meddling new boss, James Dolan, informed him that he would be retaining Isiah Thomas as a glorified scout.
It was at that moment four years ago that Walsh, a classy and well-respected basketball lifer, should have realized he was being played for a fool.
Dolan, the Chairman of Madison Square Garden and Isiah's greatest supporter, followed David Stern's orders of stripping Thomas of his dual titles and hiring Walsh to rebuild the floundering Knicks. Dolan went along with the farce but he never had any intentions of removing Thomas from power.
As one of Isiah's friends once famously told me, "Isiah doesn't need a title. He's got Jim in his corner."
And now, the charade is finally over. The Knicks announced on Friday that Walsh's promising run as team president is over. The Garden said the decision was mutual, which is a nice way of saying that Walsh no longer wanted to work for Dolan:
As with Jeff Van Gundy 10 years earlier, Walsh fired Dolan before Dolan fired Walsh.
The Garden announced that Walsh will serve as a consultant through the 2011-12 season, which is comical since that is the position Walsh has unofficially held since replacing Thomas as club president in April 2008.
You have to be blind, clueless or a media shill not to understand that Walsh was hired to serve as a consultant to Dolan and Thomas, the de facto general manager, all along.
Dolan's promise of granting Walsh full autonomy from the start was a flat out lie. He said it to placate the commissioner and the media. Give Dolan credit for this -- he came clean last July that Walsh was a figurehead when he dispatched Thomas to Ohio in a last ditch effort to recruit LeBron James.
It was the Knicks' inability to sign LeBron that accelerated Walsh's departure. Privately, Dolan blamed Walsh, confined to a wheelchair following spine surgery, for losing LeBron.
Within a month, Walsh threatened to quit when Dolan broached the idea of naming Thomas general manager. For weeks, Dolan had refused to approve Walsh's top choice, Chris Mullin, the same position and instead was promoting his Thomas for the job.
Walsh begrudgingly settled on naming Thomas a consultant, a hiring that was eventually voided by Stern because Thomas was moonlighting as the head coach of Florida International University in Miami.
The damage, however, had been done. Walsh's relationship with Dolan would never be the same and it only deteriorated in January when, according to a source, they had a heated exchange over the telephone.
Dolan was upset that Walsh had granted an interview to Dolan's arch nemesis in the media, Daily News columnist Mike Lupica. Although Lupica's column was favorable toward Walsh and the Knicks, Dolan saw it as a sign of betrayal.
In Dolan's twisted world, losing games and throwing away millions on garbage players is okay. But violate his media policy and it's "off with your head."
Walsh, according to a source, ended the profanity laced conversation by doing something fellow Garden employees dream about doing but would never have the guts to do; he told Dolan to piss off and then hung up on him.
Soon after, Dolan publicly usurped Walsh's power by taking over the Carmelo Anthony trade negotiations. Both Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni felt the Knicks were giving up too much in the deal but Dolan, who was being advised by Thomas, went ahead and made the deal with Denver.
Dolan's trusted lieutenants, sensing a public relations nightmare, had Dolan stoop to reprimanding the media during Carmelo's press conference by addressing Isiah's involvement. Dolan mocked the media for reporting that Thomas was advising him and in doing so gave Carmelo a preview of life at Dolan's Garden, where trying to bully the press takes precedent over introducing the team's newest star.
It was sad and pathetic and classic Dolan, who has been running away from reporter questions for years.
Although Dolan had rendered Walsh powerless, his advisors felt that retaining Walsh would play well with the fan base and the media. Dolan, according to reports, offered a two-year contract but wouldn't agree to grant Walsh full autonomy, which would include the authority to hire a general manager.
When Dolan refused Walsh knew it was time to move. Walsh was like a lot of high-profile Garden employees over the past decade; he made a fortune from Dolan but took plenty of grief. Now 70, Walsh decided that enough was enough.
Walsh, a decent man who made some blunders but also restored dignity to the franchise, finally realized that Dolan never wanted him because Dolan never wanted to get rid of Thomas.
After all this time it finally dawned on Donnie Walsh, Bronx born and raised, that the spoiled son of a Cablevision billionaire always gets his way.