We may never know the full truth behind Donnie Walsh's decision to step down at the end of the month -- here's looking at you, James Dolan and Isiah Thomas -- but we do know this: he'll leave the organization as the most likeable Knicks' president since Dave Checketts, whose 1990s teams made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three times and the Finals once in 1994.
Although Walsh will be walking away from the Knicks before they reach championship status, a goal he set for himself when he was hired in 2008, there should be no idea in anyone's mind that he should get an incomplete. Walsh deserves a passing grade for his time in the front office. Not only did he bring in two superstars, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and get the team back to the playoffs this past season after a seven-year absence, he was also able to clean up Thomas' mess and put the team under the salary cap last spring -- the first time since the summer of 1996.
Here's a look back at Walsh's tenure in New York by highlighting his five best personnel moves.
"Money In The Bank!" -- On February 19, 2009, DW heals a major salary-cap wound by ridding the team of one of the most questionable free agent signings ever, Jerome James, whom Thomas penned to a five-year, $30 million contract in the summer of 2005. James is traded to the Chicago Bulls, along with Anthony Roberson and Tim Thomas, for Larry Hughes. Nearly a year later, on February 18, 2010, DW clears even more cap space by trading Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill, a projected 2012 first-round pick and the right to exchange first-round picks to the Houston Rockets for Tracy McGrady. The latter transaction saves the Knicks $9.4 million in salary-cap room, which enables them to sign one of the top six free agents in the class of 2010: Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer.
"The Knicks Get STAT-ked!" -- On July 8, 2010, DW acquires Stoudemire, the franchise's best player since Patrick Ewing, by trading a trade exception and another consideration to the Phoenix Suns. Without STAT, you can rest assured that there never would've been a Melo deal.
"It's A Bird ... It's A Plane ... It's Meloman!" -- On February 22, 2011, DW finalizes a deal to deliver Stoudemire an All-NBA sidekick by trading Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, a future first-round pick, two future second-round picks, the right to exchange 2016 first-round picks and cash to the Denver Nuggets for Anthony. Not only that, Melo arrives with former All-Star and Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, and on the same day, DW clears more cap space by trading Eddy Curry and his $11.3 million expiring contract, Anthony Randolph and cash to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Corey Brewer.
"Isiah, See Ya Lata!" -- On April 18, 2008, DW fires arguably the most hated man in Knicks history, unsuccessful head coach Isiah Thomas, and honor is restored to the organization. Less than a month later, DW hires a winning sideline boss, Mike D'Antoni, amid concerns about his defensive approach.
"Watch Out, Pigeons! 'The Rooster' Rules New York!" -- DW capitalizes on the Knicks' highest draft pick (No. 6) since 1986 (Kenny Walker went fifth) by selecting Italian stallion, Danilo Gallinari, who emerges as one of the best international players in the NBA.
Five Honorable Mentions: 1) signing potential All-Star Raymond Felton on July 10, 2010; 2) signing 3-point specialist Toney Douglas on July 9, 2009; 3) signing surprise rookie Landry Fields on August 26, 2010; 4) signing the resurgent Shawne Williams on September 23, 2010 (over Patrick Ewing's son, Pat Jr.); and 5) waving team nuisance Stephon Marbury on February 24, 2009.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.