This is not about Ed Stefanski, a good man who deserved a chance to run a team, and will do just fine with a lottery pick and millions in cap room next summer. It doesn't hurt that he knows every sharpie in town and can get to the Palestra from a dozen directions. The 76ers are in good hands with Stefanski, named team president and general manager yesterday.
Still, it is ironic that the team coming to town this evening, the Boston Celtics, tried to give away games last season to get Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in the draft and failed - yet got rewarded with Ray Allen, and then, Kevin Garnett. Meanwhile, the home team did things the right way last season, and Billy King got fired.
There will be no defense of King's tenure here. That would be impossible. Too many bad contract extensions; too many not-so-great draft picks (amazing how bad teams constantly say, "But our draft picks are on the floor/ice/field." Yes, and the other teams are grateful); too many wrong choices on the bench after Larry Brown left town; and too many failed attempts to give Allen Iverson the help he needed.
There will be no criticism of King for gambling on Chris Webber and his mega-contract, either. He was the best guy available at the time, and the Pistons' general manager, Joe Dumars - no dummy - took a shot on Webber, too.
You can't say King didn't try everything, unless you're forgetting the four-team deal that would have sent Iverson to Detroit in 2000 if Matt Geiger had agreed to waive his trade kicker or how close King came to getting now-dominant forward Carlos Boozer and young guard Randy Foye in one fell swoop on draft night 2006.
But those deals fell through, and King didn't have a BFF and former teammate with a franchise player like Celtics GM Danny Ainge did in his Minnesota counterpart, Kevin McHale. So King got the ax, and Ainge got Garnett, and Ainge will be executive of the year next spring. That's life in the big city.
Ed Snider spun like Kristi Yamaguchi yesterday, saying over and over that it was time for a change. But if (lack of) winning is the problem, why wasn't it time for a change last summer? Stefanski may have assurances from Comcast that it will spend money, but it still will take time to fix this mess.
"I'm a big fan of Billy's," Snider said yesterday. "I'm the guy that made him president and general manager. There comes a time for change in every organization. This is the time for a change in our view. I mean, you may not agree, but that's what we believe."
Snider and Peter Luukko, Comcast president and chief operating officer, said they had full faith in the 76ers' scouting department, arguing that the scouts really run the draft, not King. But in the next breath, they said they were disappointed with how the 5-12 Sixers played. Well, if these players stink and these scouts picked them, why are the scouts still employed while King isn't?
It was hard to watch Snider - who has genuinely liked and defended King over the years - on the dais yesterday. Clearly, this was not his doing.
Those orders came directly from Comcast, it says here, a conglomerate that has seen one of its chief subsidiaries become irrelevant in the local sports culture, the Eagles' quarterback troubles and the Phillies' lack of proven arms notwithstanding.
Firing a team president probably won't affect a potential sale price if Comcast ever puts the team back on the market (a cable giant needs programming like NBA basketball to put on its sports tier), but there likely were more pressing concerns on the collective mind of the Roberts family.
The 76ers were on the verge of alienating anyone who either bought a ticket in recent years or thought of buying one. The Iverson fans are still ticked off that he's gone and are staying away from the Wachovia Center. The Iverson haters, not surprisingly, have found better things to do than pay to watch Andre Iguodala shoot 42 percent from the floor.
"I hope our fans understand that we have good young talent; they try hard. There's some exciting players out there." He said he hopes the fans will support them. "So far, that hasn't happened."
Still, Snider acknowledged he might have been "delusional" about the franchise's long-term health after watching the team play .500 basketball post-Iverson last season.
Someone had to pay, because the fans aren't paying for tickets, and - no surprise - it was the guy with the expiring contract, that being quite valuable in the NBA. So it goes, and there went King, the guy who had to be sacrificed to show everyone that Comcast, as ever, means business.