FIVE DAYS - that's how long it took Sixers chairman Ed Snider to decide that Billy King was no longer the best man to run the organization's rebuilding project.
Less than a week ago, Snider was still comfortable with King as the Sixers president and general manager despite the fact that he was letting him work on an expiring contract.
Then, for reasons that no one has made clear, Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko decided to call New Jersey Nets president Rod Thorn to ask permission to talk to general manger Ed Stefanski about coming down the Jersey Turnpike to run the Sixers.
Thorn said, "Yes."
And that, not so much the Sixers having missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, trading popular superstar Allen Iverson or starting the season 5-12, signaled the end of King's 10-year tenure with the Sixers.
"[Stefanski] has been on our radar for about 5 days," Snider said yesterday at a news conference to introduce Stefanski as the new president and general manager. "We didn't know he was available. We didn't know we were going to be able to talk to him.
"[Luukko] just called [Thorn] and asked. When [Thorn gave permission], Ed got on our radar."
As odd as it might sound, until Luukko called Thorn, Snider said he was content to let King continue to run things. According to Snider, the only thing that changed between last June - when Snider gave King a non-binding vote of confidence by letting him run the 2007 draft, offseason free agency, roster selection, training camp and the start of the season - was that Stefanski came into the picture less than a week ago.
Had Thorn denied the Sixers permission to talk to Stefanski, Snider said, "There's a good chance that [King] would be here. But we were thinking that we needed to have a change in the structure of our organization."
As recently as the start of the season, Snider had expressed his pleasure with King, particularly for clearing up the salary- cap hell the Sixers were in so they could be active in next summer's free-agent race. But Snider said when Stefanski, a native of Delaware County and graduate of Penn, became available, that changed everything.
"You don't have opportunities like this that often,'' Snider said. "It's hard to find key executives in this league. And to find one that we think is a perfect fit had us move faster than we probably would have."
The fact that the Nets put a limit on the time the Sixers would be permitted to negotiate with Stefanski stepped up the pace of King's demise.
"The longer Ed was there, he would not be available because he would be working on [the Nets'] trades, draft, etc.," Snider said. "It was either now or not at all."
Considering the way the Sixers have plummeted since reaching the 2001 NBA Finals, there really is no way to advocate that King should not have been fired. But I still think it was odd for Snider to let King design a three-stage rebuilding program that included trading Iverson and running the franchise's most important draft in 10 years if the organization wasn't fully committed to him.
Snider said that was not the case. "To say something like that is to presuppose that we had made a decision [to fire King]," Snider said. "We hadn't. We just made this decision.
"It wasn't like we were sitting there saying, 'Hey, we're going to let Billy run the draft and then let him go a couple of months later.' That's not what we were doing. Billy was in place. He was the general manager and we were behind him 100 percent."
I'm also a little confused by the revisionist assessment that King was only pretending like he was running things on draft night, when he couldn't pull off a deal to move up higher.
"From an organizational standpoint, we let our scouts, our head scout and the head of personnel, Tony DiLeo, actually do the draft," Snider said. "They are the ones that are out there seeing the players. They grade the players, and prior to the draft we list them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. The scouts go over and over it and change the list. But when we get the final list, that's what we go by. We don't change it at the draft table."
So if Thaddeus Young can't play, don't blame King, because he was just going by the chart.
Another confusing thing is that while Snider said, "We like our scouts," he conceded that their future with the organization will be entirely up to Stefanski. So, the bottom line is the 2007 draft was conducted by a president who definitely is not part of the Sixers' future and scouts who may not be.
Still, while you can debate the timing, Luukko and Snider have to get credit for making an aggressive move to get a guy they determined was too good to pass up.
"I'm a big fan of Billy King," Snider said. "I'm the guy who made him president and general manager, but there comes a time for change in every organization. Billy was here for 10 years. He had a good run, but sometimes an organization needs a fresh approach."
Five days changed everything.