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In first interview, Billy King says he could have turned things around if permitted to stay on

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In his first interview since being dumped as Nets GM in January, Billy King tells two NBA beat writers he thinks he could have turned things around if he had been permitted to stay on, but says he does not "begrudge" ownership for wanting a "different voice" in shaping the team.  Still, he admits to "bitter fieelings"

King also seems to side with those who criticized the Nets for not interviewing any candidates of color for his old job, noting that the trend now is to hire executives from the "Spurs tree," an apparent reference to the Nets decision to hire Sean Marks and Trajan Langdon.

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News and Vincent Goodwill of the Comcast Sports Net in Chicago devoted most of the interview, conducted last week, to a discussion of how to increase African-Americans in NBA front offices, but at the end of the 40-minute discussion asked King about his departure from the Nets, billed at the time as a "reassignment."

Asked how he's spending his time, King talked about how he's looking forward to his next job.

"I looked back at things that we done. You know you write up a plan," said the 50-year-old King. "After I get back,  here's how I want to set up my staff and here's how I want to do things differently. and you just network and stay in the mix."

King then reflected on his job with the Nets. "I know some of the mistakes that were made here and I i thought I could have turned it around but ownership ... that's their prerogative, [but] you still spent time trying to figure out what's next."

He was asked if he thought it was "unfair" that he did what ownership wanted but was still let go, King paused for a few seconds before answering, then spoke at length, in part discussing his relationship with ownership, in part defending his record.

"I think as I said when I interviewed for the job, 'we're going to make decisions together, we're in this together' and I felt we did that. and i thought we didn't have picks, but I thought we could go after free agents and we signed Thaddeus and Brook to deals,

"But I don't begrudge ownership. It's their team and they invest a lot of money. It's their prerogative. it's like when you're GM and you make a decision to fire a coach. That's a decision you've got to make.

"So like I said from the beginning, every franchise is led by ownership.  and there have been some that have been very, very successful and some that haven't but they all learn and grow. All these guys are super people because they've made a lot of money.  -- all of them, all 30 owners in this league, in all pro sports, they made a lot of money in another area to be able to invest it in this.  And they take a lot of heat. As much as we do, they take a lot of heat. because in the end, they have final say.

"So I look at it like it's an opportunity they gave me. and I thank them for it and I'm friends with them and is there bitter feelings?. yeah, but you know when you're hired, you're most likely going to get fired. "

At the end of the day, he said it's about the need for a "different voice."

On the subject of African-Americans in NBA front offices, King echoed criticism of the Nets leveled by a number of writers and others --including Goodwill-- that none of the eight finalists for King's job were African American. (Seven were white, one Hispanic.)

"Some of the younger assistant GMs don't get the interviews," King argued. "that's what is more troubling, not the fact that they didn't get hired but some of the guys like Scott Perry (Vice President/Assistant General Manager.of the Magic) have not got the interview and to me that's whats more troubling."

King said part of the issue is a trend ... that the Nets followed in hiring Sean Marks.

"I think the trend that's been going is to hire from San Antonio, guys from the San Antonio tree," he said, later adding, "It's not about hiring someone because they're black or they're white.  You try to hire the best people and I think sometimes people come from a certain organization and they keep getting jobs because they must know something that we don't know."

King said the solution to the problem is not necessarily a "Rooney Rule," like the NFL has, which requires ownership to interview candidates of color.  Instead he suggested that the NBA bring owners and assistant GMs and assistant coaches together in informal settings.

King also suggested that there may be a conspiracy between media and agents to label candidates, citing how Mark Jackson has been treated after being fired in Golden State.

"I think what's hard is when you have agendas, you have agendas in certain media types, or agents that represent coaches and GMs and they have agendas. they may plant stories, they put things out there and they keep perpetuating it," King said.

"And it's a hard time trying to overcome them because some of these guys are major heavyweights in the media or in the agent world and they're best at promoting their guy and knocking the other guy. That's what we've got, a lot of heavyweight media guys that feel that have to knock some of these other guys. And they have to do it off the record and that's what's wrong."

King also said that he offered to resign as 76ers GM in 2002 during Allen Iverson's famous "practice" rant, calling Ed Snyder, the Philly owner, to take responsibility for "letting the organization down." Snyder refused to accept his offer.

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