ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -The NBA had seven black top executives among its teams during the 2007-08 season, the highest percentage of minority presidents and CEOs in men's professional sports history, according to a university study released Thursday.
Besides Ulice Payne, who was president of baseball's Milwaukee Brewers in 2002-03, the seven men are the only blacks to serve as top executive of a men's team in any sport, said Richard Lapchick, study author and head of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
The high number of minority team executives, along with large ratios of women and black vice presidents and an NBA record 42 percent of assistant coaches who were minorities, helped pro basketball receive the first overall ``A'' for men's sports in the nearly two decades Lapchick has issued diversity report cards.
``It doesn't surprise me. It was a kind of gradual move toward that,'' Laphick said.
The only other sport to receive an overall ``A'' has been the WNBA.
The seven black presidents/CEOs were: Terdema Ussery, Dallas Mavericks; Fred Whitfield, Charlotte Bobcats; Steve Mills, New York Knicks; Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers; Larry Miller, Portland Trail Blazers; Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons; and Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks.
King was fired in December, Thomas in April. The Washington Wizards' Susan O'Malley, the first and only female president of an NBA franchise, stepped down last summer.
The NBA had 12 black head coaches this past season - at 40 percent of the league total the highest in all pro sports, and the same as the past two seasons. However, three of the coaches - Charlotte's Sam Vincent, Dallas' Avery Johnson and Thomas - were fired.
Though there will be fewer black coaches next year, Lapchick said ``it always balances out in the end.''
``They might go down to 10 head coaches the next year, but they'll bounce back up to 13,'' he said.
There have been 54 black head coaches in NBA history, more than twice as many as any other sport. MLB is second with 26 minority managers.
Women comprised 41 percent of professional employees in the league office, higher than any other sport and an increase of 2 percentage points after three years of decline, the study said.
Charlotte's Robert Johnson remained the only black majority owner in men's pro sports.
NBA officials did not immediately return e-mail or telephone messages.
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Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport: http://www.tidesport.org

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