INDIANAPOLIS - Donnie Walsh was in Phil Jackson's position not that long ago, and tore down the Knicks only to build them back up.
Jackson is in the tearing-down process and will try to rebuild the Knicks this offseason with a high lottery pick and at least $30 million to spend on free agents. Walsh, the former Knicks president and currently a Pacers consultant, believes Jackson can do the job.
"I think Phil is a good basketball man," Walsh said before Wednesday night's 105-82 drubbing by the Pacers.
"I think to a degree when you come in, it's better to come in like this when you're looking and now you have a good chance to see what to do and there's going to be money, and it's like that picture gets clear.
"I think that's what's happening. I think that's what they're trying to do, and they'll do it. I have all the confidence they'll do it."
It's Jackson's first time as an executive and he has taken full responsibility for the Knicks' failings after he thought he had assembled a playoff team. Walsh, 74, said Jackson will learn as he goes along, and his belief he will succeed is not because he was an all-time great coach.
"I'm not saying anything about that," Walsh said. "I'm saying that I think he's a good basketball man and I think he'll build a good team.
"He knows when he looks around the league and he looks at free agency who would fit with good players and [go] get the good players. He'll have the wherewithal to do that with the cap space he's got now."
Walsh inherited a payroll over $100 million when he became Knicks president in 2008. He traded away Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph and continued chopping salary to put the Knicks in position to pursue marquee players in 2010.
LeBron James was their top target. They ended up signing Amar'e Stoudemire, and made a midseason trade for Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks made the first of three straight playoff appearances in 2011. Walsh was out after that season. He said had he stayed he would have tried to find the right players to complement Anthony and Stoudemire.
"My feeling was we had to build a good team beyond the stars," he said. "I never did that, because I left, but that's what it will have to become. You have to have good players and great players. You can't just get a couple of great players and think, 'OK, we're done now.' "
Jackson has said similar things -- that he wants to build something sustainable. The Knicks won 54 games two seasons ago and own the worst record in the league now. But Walsh said that can turn around quickly.
Walsh doesn't think the triangle offense will be a deterrent. And even though the Knicks struck out on James five years ago, Walsh still believes New York can attract top-level players.
"Absolutely," he said. "Actually when I was there, I couldn't understand why players wouldn't go there. I thought it was a good place to go. But these kids all have their own lives and their agendas, so you can't always tell."