BILLY KING is out. Ed Stefanski is in.

A source in North Jersey confirmed last night that Stefanski, the general manager of the New Jersey Nets since the summer of 2004, will officially be named to a similar position today with the 76ers.

Stefanski, who will be introduced at a news conference, replaces Billy King, who has been with the franchise since June 2, 1997, and has been serving in the dual roles of president and general manager since May 26, 2003.

Stefanski, who played basketball at Monsignor Bonner High and Penn and later coached at Bonner, had been in his ninth season working for the Nets.

The source said that the Sixers contacted the Nets about a week ago, securing permission to speak with Stefanski. The source also said that the opportunity caught Stefanski by surprise, and that he had not been politicking for a job with his hometown team.

Neither King, Stefanski, chairman Ed Snider nor Peter Luukko, the president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor and chairman of Global Spectrum, responded to messages left by the Daily News late last night.

Stefanski is expected to sign a multiyear contract and will report directly to Luukko.

It is believed that no decision has been made on the future of head coach Maurice Cheeks.

Both King and Cheeks are in the final season of their respective contracts.

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, because Snider had signed off on King's three-stage plan to rebuild the team. That began with the trading of Allen Iverson to Denver last December and the subsequent buyout of the balance of Chris Webber's contract.

The second stage included the acquisition of Thaddeus Young, Jason Smith, Herbert Hill and the since-waived Derrick Byars in the NBA's June draft.

The third step was to come in the summer, when the Sixers are expected to have major salary- cap space and become a player in free agency and the trade market.

The Sixers, though, are 5-12 after last night's 88-79 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, leaving them with their 10th loss in 13 games and a 3-6 record in the lifeless Wachovia Center.

Stefanski came to the Nets after a successful careeer as president of Preferred Mortgages Corp. and spent 20 years as a respected TV basketball analyst. *

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