THOUGH THE immediate future of the NBA is being played out in a Manhattan hotel as owners and players try to iron out a new collective bargaining agreement, some business must carry on.

The 76ers' new ownership group, headed by leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris, has hired noted travel industry executive Adam M. Aron as the team's chief executive officer, the Daily News learned yesterday.

Aron, 56, and Harris have history. Aron is a senior operating partner at Apollo Global Management, which Harris co-founded. Aron was born in Philadelphia and attended Abington High (class of 1972). Harris grew up here.

Aron previously was CEO of Vail Resorts, the second-largest ski resort operator worldwide, and president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, then the fourth-largest cruise company in the world. He also was senior vice president for marketing for United Airlines and for the Hyatt Hotels Corp. After Abington, Aron attended Harvard, where he graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government and earned an MBA with distinction from the Business School.

The new CEO recently flew to San Diego to meet with head coach Doug Collins, the undeniable face of the organization.

"I was very impressed with Adam," said Collins, who will return to Philadelphia on Tuesday to huddle with his assistant coaches in hopeful anticipation of a not-too-distant start to the season. "He has some great ideas."

The biggest trouble facing the Sixers' new ownership is selling a team devoid of superstars and recent playoff success, much unlike the city's other major pro teams.

"Adam knows that we have to market the team and make it a product the fans want to come and see," Collins said. The foundation of that marketing endeavor probably would revolve around youngsters Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.

Aron also recently met with president Rod Thorn and general manager Ed Stefanski, and the three toured the team's practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, a nice but somewhat outdated practice site.

"Adam, Rod and Ed spent 3 hours touring PCOM," said Collins, who led the team to a 41-41 record in his first season with the team, a 16-win improvement from the previous season. "Josh and Adam know that we need upgrades to our practice facility. They know to make money you have to spend money.

"I really love the energy that the both of them have. Meeting with Adam, it wasn't hard to realize that he is a really sharp guy with a lot of great ideas. I walked through with him what I'd like to see done, and he was very receptive to what I had to say, as was Josh when I've talked to him."

An attempt to reach Harris about the hiring was unsuccessful. Harris and his group, which includes David Blitzer, a senior managing director and co-chairman of the Blackstone Group, and former sports agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien, finalized the deal to take over the Sixers in mid-July for about $280 million. Their ownership bid is expected to receive approval from the NBA's Board of Governors in about 2 weeks.

Unless a new CBA is reached soon, however, Philadelphia fans won't be able to get a real feel for what the new ownership has in mind for the organization. Contact between front-office members and players is disallowed during the lockout.

On Wednesday, owners and union representatives met for 6 hours in only their second meeting since the lockout began on July 1. Training camps are scheduled to open later this month. A resolution that quick appears to be almost impossible. So it could be a while before Sixers fans can gauge the presence of the new ownership.