YOU DIDN'T really think Billy King would pull a Julius Caesar and claim he was stabbed in the back.

There can be plenty of debate about whether King did a good job as president and general manager of the 76ers, but people can agree that he operates with class and dignity.

So, yesterday, as he sat in front of the microphones and cameras at the Palm Restaurant, a place where he negotiated dozens of deals in his 10 1/2 years with the Sixers, King showed no signs of anger or resentment at having been fired on Monday.

For King, it was an opportunity to answer questions about the bad thing that had just happened in his life, but also to reflect on all the great things that have happened to him since he came to Philadelphia in 1997.

The Palm seemed perfect.

"I'd bring guys here when they first signed," King said of the restaurant at the Bellevue. "We'd meet with agents here. And there were things not all about business.

"I remember meeting with Mayor Rendell here before he announced he was going to run for governor. This was the office away from the office."

Now, it'll just be one of his favorite restaurants, and after a couple of days to reflect on his firing, King is content.

"For 10 years, this was a 24/7job," King said. "For the first time, I have a chance to take a breath.

"I remember when [former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik] stepped down, he told me it was kind of like getting off a treadmill. That's what I feel like. I'm not on the treadmill.

"I'll get back on. I'll take some time, but I'll get back to working."

It's not necessary to go through the highs and lows of King's tenure. Everything has been well-documented.

And really, today, what does it matter?

Ed Stefanski is the Sixers' new president and general manager.

King, who last December got the go-ahead to implement a three-stage rebuilding of the franchise, said it wasn't for him to question the timing of his firing.

"Would I have liked to have seen the process through? Yeah," said King, who was in the final year of his contract. "But ultimately they made a decision. I wasn't too concerned about the job, because we had a plan. I still think they have a great plan."

But again, King isn't bitter.

His first comments were to thank Comcast owners Ralph and Brian Roberts for giving him the opportunity.

He thanked his old boss, Larry Brown, for convincing then-president Pat Croce, who was skeptical, to allow him to come to the organization in the first place.

And King thanked Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, who named him president and GM after Brown left the coaching job in 2003 and ultimately told him he was being removed on Monday.

"I think we talked for about 20 minutes," King said. "A lot of that, I'll keep personal, because Ed Snider is a great friend and great mentor. A lot of it wasn't talking about why, but just talking.

"I'm sure I'll sit down and talk with Ed next week. Just because this ends doesn't mean a friendship has to end, because if it does, then you weren't really friends in the first place."

Ten years' worth of memories - most good, some bad.

The high point for King?

"The year we went to the Finals, beating Milwaukee and seeing this city come together. Whether you were black or white, male or female, just everybody coming together for a common goal. It was special to be a part of that, to know that I was part of that," he said.

He said the lowest point definitely was the infamous Fan Appreciation Night fiasco at the end of the 2006 season, when Allen Iverson and Chris Webber showed up late and did not make an appearance for the sellout crowd.

It was the only time I recall King publicly losing his trademark cool.

"That was the lowest point," King said. "Not because those guys didn't show up, but because our fans didn't deserve that."

Ultimately, King said the people he's met over the past decade is what he'll remember most.

"This city has been great for me," King said. "I met my wife here and started a family.

"The fans of Philadelphia have been great. They get a bad rap about the nation, but they're passionate and they deserve a championship.

"When I took the job, the goal was to ultimately win a championship. In 2001, we came close. I root for the city of Philadelphia. I'm just sorry that I wasn't able to get a championship for them." *

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