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Billy King fired

In a stunning announcement, the Philadelphia 76ers have fired president and general manager Billy King, replacing him with Ed Stefanski.

In fact, Stefanski was in his ninth season with the New Jersey Nets and held the GM position since the summer of 2004. He helped engineer the 2004 trade that brought Vince Carter to New Jersey Nets.

"We needed a fresh approach to the leadership of the franchise," stated Sixers owner Ed Snider at a Tuesday press conference. "We had the opportunity to bring in someone as accomplished as Ed Stefanski. This was a guy who was too good to pass up."

Indeed, Tuesday's announcement marks a return to Philadelphia for Stefanski, who was a 1976 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and coached on the high school level in the Philadelphia area. And he also worked as a broadcaster for nearly 20 years before joining the Nets.

"I feel more than ready to be the caretaker of the Sixers" expressed Stefanski, who thanked Nets president Rod Thorn for allowing him to make the move.

"I think that the 76ers are very close to my heart. They were my team. I'm a Philly guy through and through. I have a passion for basketball, a passion for Philadelphia. I love this place."

It's important to mention that The 41-year-old King had been with the Sixers since June of 1997 and was named the GM in May of the following year. He added the title of president in May of 2003.

Billy King, who was in the final year of his contract, was instrumental in trading perennial All-Star Allen Iverson to Denver last season, beginning the Sixers' current rebuilding phase.

"It was not an easy decision. Billy King is a good friend and did a good job," Snider added. "We believe we have an effective long-term plan in place, but we also feel it is time for a change, time for a new hand at the wheel."

Philadelphia 76ers fell to 5-12 this season following a loss at home to Atlanta on Monday. The squad went 35-47 last season.

We must remember that the high point of King's tenure with the Sixers came in the 2000-01 season when they went to the NBA Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Stephon Marbury's father died during his son's game

The talented Stephon Marbury played through the second half of Sunday's 115-104 loss to the Phoenix Suns not knowing his father was in an ambulance, heading to St. Vincent's Hospital. The star-crossed Knicks guard, who endured another night of regular boos sprinkled with occasional cheers from the frustrated Garden faithful, was on the court as a close game slipped away toward a 10th loss in the past 13 matches.

And at St. Vincent's that evening, Donald E. Marbury, 66, the father of one of the most famous New York City basketball products, and patriarch of an extremely tight-knit basketball family with proud Coney Island roots, took his last breath.

Isiah Thomas, who until this season's turmoil had likened himself to a father figure for Stephon, fought back his emotions as he discussed the previous night's events yesterday after practice at the MSG Training Center.

Marbury was excused from the practice to be with his family and it is not known how long he will be away from the team. It's clearly a different situation than the previous time he left the team, Nov. 13 in Phoenix, after Thomas informed him he wouldn't be starting.

"This isn't the day to discuss that," said Thomas, who also declined to offer any thoughts about Donald Marbury, whom Thomas knew.

"Again, this isn't the time for those kinds of conversations," Thomas said. "Let's let the family grieve and try to get to some place in their life where they can have some type of peace."

Stephon, the sixth of seven children, was told by a family friend moments after he left the Garden floor on Sunday night. The rest of the team, including Thomas, was told a short time later.

The player who wears No. 3 endured his third heartache in a three-week span. When he left the team in November, Marbury returned to New York to learn of the death of a childhood mentor, Robert "Mr. Lou" Williams. A week later, Marbury's aunt - his cousin Sebastian Telfair's grandmother - passed away. Marbury opted to go with the Knicks for the Nov. 21 game in Detroit instead of attending the funeral.

"I can feel his pain," said Zach Randolph, who three weeks ago lost his grandmother. "It's been a tough year. I feel real sorry for him and his family."

Knicks spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz said that Donald Marbury began feeling ill during halftime and while the players were on the floor warming up for the second half, Donald was escorted to the ambulance by Garden security.

Stephon has a row of seats under the basket at the visitors' bench end of the court, where his family usually sits and, occasionally, his father and mother, Mabel, sit there. Don and Mabel, who raised their children in a West 31st Street apartment in Surfside Gardens, spend most of their time living in a Suitland, Md., home purchased for them by Stephon. They attend games when they can.

For Sunday's game, neither were in Marbury's courtside seats. Donald Marbury was seated in another undisclosed area of the Garden and out of direct view from the court.

A member of the family informed the Knicks that Donald was taken to the hospital, but, according to Supranowitz, asked that the team not tell Stephon during the game.

Just as the encounter ended, a Garden security guard intercepted Supranowitz with the news of Donald Marbury's death, which had been relayed from the hospital. A family friend met Stephon in the hallway outside the Knicks locker room to inform him of the stunning news. The family friend also told Thomas before he met the press.

Afterwards, Marbury dressed and quickly left the Garden without speaking to reporters. He was escorted by a group of Garden security and headed straight for the hospital.

"It's a terrible thing that has happened to him and his family," Thomas admitted. "For any parent watching their son or daughter perform and to have something like that happen, anyone who has kids, you sympathize with the son and sympathize with the family. We'll do whatever we need to do to be supportive of him and his family at this time."

The NY Knicks play the Nets at the IZOD Center tomorrow night and then have a home-and-home with the 76ers Friday and Saturday. "He can take all the time he wants," Randolph admitted. "I have no problem with that."

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