He might say it in hushed tones this weekend, but Glen Saville loved his time at the Kings.
It's an uncomfortable truth for hardened Hawks fans, especially during this enormously, thrillingly epic NBL play-off series between the bitter NSW rivals, though he's still happy to put it out there.
"It was great, it challenged me," he said.
"I was in my 30s by then and Brian Goorjian had the reputation as a coach for demanding a lot out of his players physically.
''He did a lot of video sessions and analysis, which was all stuff I'd never really done in Wollongong.
"So I had to be up for it, I had to get the best out of myself.
"It wasn't just about the money to go there, Brendan Joyce had been sacked [at the Hawks], going to the Kings took me out of my comfort zone."
The Kings had won three straight NBL titles from 2003-05, then finished the 2007-08 season with a phenomenal 27-3 record to finish on top of the ladder, only to go down in five gripping finals games against the Melbourne Tigers.
The Hawks finished 11th.
And then the Kings went bust and disappeared from the NBL landscape, before their relaunch in 2010-11, a fate which the Hawks have managed to avoid by more than one minor miracle along the way.
So Saville returned to Wollongong to play out his decorated career until retiring in 2013.
Saville will be in the crowd for the series opener on Friday night and in Sydney to watch Sunday's clash which could decide a grand final spot.
As the 2001 NBL championship-winning MVP and one of five players to have his retired No.12 singlet hanging in the rafters at WIN Entertainment Centre, he's resisting the temptation to stir the pot too much.
"I probably wouldn't want to set foot in there in any kind of purple, would I?" Saville laughs. ''Maybe I could cut my old jerseys up and have half each, or have it reversible, so I can walk out wearing whoever wins. I've got grey hair and a moustache these days, so most people probably won't even recognise me in the crowd anyway."
Goorjian carries an enormous legacy, having won three of his six NBL rings at the Kings.
And he's building one at the Hawks, having taken them to successive finals series since the new ownership took over.
What makes Goorjian so great?
"It's his dedication," Saville said. "The man doesn't sleep.
"He was just always analysing how we could get better and you've seen it in the Hawks this year, how they came out of the rough patch in the middle of the season and strung all those wins together on the road.
"Defensively as a coach, there are none better than Goorj."
The winner of the Hawks-Kings series will meet either Melbourne or Tasmania, after United went 1-0 up in their series on Thursday night.
Saville, now a 46-year-old firefighter, is better placed than anyone to understand how Xavier Cooks and Angus Glover feel this weekend.
Cooks grew up around the Hawks, with father Eric on the coaching staff, but came back from playing college basketball in the US to establish his career with the Kings.
Glover has dozens of Hawks jerseys, including one he won as part of a competition during the successful campaign to save the foundation club by Saville's long-time teammate and championship captain Mat Campbell.
The Illawarra juniors have the chance to wreck the Hawks' hopes of winning their first title in 21 years.
"It's difficult, my mates used to call me all sorts of names during games, they'd just rip into me," he said.
"If I bricked a three-pointer, I'd never hear the end of it.
"But it's all about embracing it as a professional.
"These guys have put all that effort into getting the Kings to this point, they've bought into that system and have played at a really high level, they want that grand final chance."
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