Rod Thorn

Last updated
Rod Thorn
Rod Thorn.jpg
Thorn from The Monticola, 1963
Personal information
Born (1941-05-23) May 23, 1941 (age 78)
Princeton, West Virginia
Listed height6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Listed weight195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school Princeton (Princeton, West Virginia)
College West Virginia (1960–1963)
NBA draft 1963 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Baltimore Bullets
Playing career1963–1971
Position Point guard / Shooting guard
Number44, 10, 22
Career history
As player:
1963–1964 Baltimore Bullets
19641965 Detroit Pistons
19651967 St. Louis Hawks
19671971 Seattle SuperSonics
As coach:
1975–1976 Spirits of St. Louis
1981–1982 Chicago Bulls
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As executive:

Career statistics
Points 5,012 (10.8 ppg)
Rebounds 1,463 (3.1 rpg)
Assists 1,214 (2.6 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame

Rodney King Thorn (born May 23, 1941) is an American basketball executive and a former professional player and coach, Olympic Committee Chairman, with a career spanning over 50 years. In 2018, Thorn was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


Early Life

Thorn attracted nationwide attention after a high school basketball career at Princeton High School in his hometown of Princeton, West Virginia that saw him average more than 30 points per game as a senior. He was a three-time all-state selection and was a two-time High School All-American. [1]

Thorn was also a highly regarded high school baseball player, before a head injury took him away from the sport for a time. [2]

Thorn was looking at colleges, including Duke University, when the West Virginia State Legislature passed a resolution designating Thorn as a state Natural Resource. This in order to persuade him to emulate native Jerry West and attend West Virginia University. Thorn did just that. [2] [3]

College career

Thorn attended West Virginia University. He wore #44, the same number as Jerry West, who had just graduated. [3] At WVU, he was an All-American guard in basketball, as well as playing three seasons on the WVU baseball team. [4]

In 1960-1961, as a sophomore (freshman could not play varsity in his era), Thorn averaged 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists for Coach George King and the 23-4 West Virginia Mountaineers men's basketball team. [5]

Thorn improved and West Virginia finished 24-6 in 1961-1962. The Mountaineers were invited to the 1962 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament, where they lost to Villanova 90-75. [6] Thorn averaged 23.7 points and 12.1 rebounds. He was the Southern Conference Player of the Year and a 2nd Team All-American selection, beside John Havlicek of Ohio State University, among others. [7] [8]

In 1962-1963, Thorn averaged 22.5 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior. West Virginia finished 23-8 and qualified for the 1963 NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament. In the NCAA's, they defeated Connecticut 77-71, as Thorn had 17 points and 7 rebounds. Thorn was outstanding in the Mountaineers' 97-88 loss to St. Josephs, scoring 44 points in a 96-88 loss. He then scored 33 points with 9 rebounds in a 83-73 win over New York University in the East Region 3rd place game, his final collegiate game. [9] [10] Thorn was again selected as a 2nd Team All-American beside Bill Bradley, among others. [7]

Overall, Thorn averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in 81 games during his three seasons at West Virginia. [8]

NBA playing career

Members of the 1963-64 Baltimore Bullets, From left to right: Rod Thorn, Charles Hardnett, Walt Bellamy, Gus Johnson and Terry Dischinger. Thorn was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, Bellamy and Johnson as individual players, and Dischinger as part of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team. Members of the 1963-64 Baltimore Bullets.jpeg
Members of the 1963–64 Baltimore Bullets, From left to rightː Rod Thorn, Charles Hardnett, Walt Bellamy, Gus Johnson and Terry Dischinger. Thorn was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor, Bellamy and Johnson as individual players, and Dischinger as part of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team.

Baltimore Bullets

Thorn was the No. 2 overall pick of the 1963 NBA draft, drafted by the Baltimore Bullets. [11]

In his rookie season 1963-1964, Thorn was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team averaging 14.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Bullets under Hall of Fame Coach Slick Leonard. [12]

Detroit Pistons

Following his first season, Thorn was traded on June 18, 1964. Baltimore traded Thorn, with Terry Dischinger and Don Kojis to the Detroit Pistons for Bob Ferry, future Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, Les Hunter, Wali Jones and Don Ohl. In 1964-1965, Thorn averaged 10.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Pistons. The team didn't make the playoffs under Charles Wolf (2-9) and 24 year old player/coach Dave DeBusschere (29-40). [13] [14]

St. Louis Hawks

Detroit, with Thorn averaging 13.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists, traded him on December 24, 1965. The Pistons sent Thorn to the St. Louis Hawks for John Tresvant and Chico Vaughn. Thorn averaged 8.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 46 games with the Hawks as a reserve. Playing alongside Future Hall of Famers Richie Guerin (player/coach), Zelmo Beaty, Lenny Wilkins and Cliff Hagan, as well as Joe Caldwell, Paul Silas and Bill Bridges, Thorn saw his minutes reduced. The Hawks lost the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Division Finals 4-3 after having beaten Baltimore 3-0 to advance. [15]

In 1966-1967, Thorn averaged 8.8 points and 2.4 rebounds for the Hawks as they added Lou Hudson and finished 39-42. The Hawks defeated the expansion Chicago Bulls 3-0 in the playoffs, before losing to the San Francisco Warriors with Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond 4-2 in the Western Division finals. Thorn averaged 10.2 points in the series. [16] [17]

Seattle SuperSonics

On May 1, 1967, Thorn was drafted by the expansion Seattle SuperSonics from the St. Louis Hawks in the NBA expansion draft. He concluded his career as a player with the Seattle SuperSonics (1967–1971). [18]

Thorn averaged a career high 15.2 points with 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists, in 1967-1968, as the expansion SuperSonics finished 23-58 under Coach Al Bianchi. [19]

The SuperSonics improved to 30-52 in 1968-1969, with Thorn averaging 11.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists at age 27. [20]

Thorn's teammate from St. Louis, Lenny Wilkins became the player/Coach of the SuperSonics in 1969-1970 and the team improved to 36-46, in Wilkins' first Coaching season. Wilkins would lead the SuperSonics to the NBA Championship in 1979, and would coach in the NBA until 2005, winning 1332 games in 32 seasons. [21] [22] Injured, Thorn averaged 2.9 points in 19 games.

In 1970-1971, Thorn finished his playing career, playing in 63 games off the bench, averaging 5.6 points and 2.9 assists for the 38-44 SuperSonics. [23]

Overall, in eight NBA seasons, Thorn averaged 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 466 games. [13]

Coaching career

In 1971–72, Thorn joined his former teammate and coach Lenny Wilkins as an assistant with the SuperSonics and the team finished 47-35. [24] [25]

In 1973, former teammate Kevin Loughery was head coach and hired Thorn as assistant coach of the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association for $15,000. [2] The Nets then won the 1974 ABA championship, led by Julius Erving. [26]

Thorn was hired the head coach of the Spirits of St. Louis with then-star Marvin Barnes for the 1975–76 ABA season. The Spirits' roster also included Hall of Famer Moses Malone, Caldwell Jones, Mike D'Antoni, Gus Gerard, Maurice Lucas, Ron Boone, M.L. Carr and Don Chaney But, after a 20-27 start he was fired in December, 1975 and replaced by Joe Mullaney. [27]

Thorn had discipline issues with Barnes. "Marvin would come late for everything,” Thorn said years later. “You couldn’t depend on him. He’d say, ‘I’m giving you 24 and 12 every night. You better talk to the others.’ He’d come late on purpose to show, ‘You don’t control me. I’m in charge.'" [2]

Thorn returned to the New York Nets and Loughery as an assistant coach when the franchise joined the NBA in 1976-1977. The team had been forced to move Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers and was playing with a depleted roster. Thorn left the position after the 1977-1978 season to move to the front office in Chicago. [24]

Basketball executive career

Chicago Bulls

In 1978, Thorn became the general manager of the Chicago Bulls and served in that role until March, 1985. Thorn hired Jerry Sloan as Head Coach, drafted Reggie Theus and had Artis Gilmore in the middle. Thorn replaced Sloan on the bench to finish the 1981-1982 season (15-15). [28] [29]

In 1984, he famously oversaw team's selection of Michael Jordan with the No. 3 pick of the 1984 NBA draft. [30] (he also selected track star Carl Lewis, with the draft on the eve of the 1984 Olympic Games, simply for patriotic publicity purposes). [31]

Thorn negated numerous trade offers for the Bulls' No. 3 pick in 1984. There was maneuvering for Jordan to go to Philadelphia where North Carolina star Billy Cunningham was the 76ers coach. There was further speculation Thorn might select Jordan's North Carolina’s teammate Sam Perkins, (who was drafted at No. 4), because the Bulls had recently selected shooting guards in previous drafts and Thorn had just traded All-Star Reggie Theus. However, Thorn drafted Jordan, and the Bulls' foundation was in place. [2]

Thorn hired Kevin Loughery as head coach and the team struggled with youth. Thorn left the Bulls when he and Loughery were fired in March, 1985 and new owner Jerry Reinsdorf hired Jerry Krause as G.M.. [32]

NBA/Dream Team/Nets/76ers

From 1986 to 2000 Thorn was the NBA's Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, serving as the league's chief disciplinarian. [33]

Thorn chaired the USA Basketball Men's National Team Selection Committee in 1992, 1996 and 2000. The "Dream Team" for the 1992 Summer Olympics (Barcelona) was assembled and the committee put together the Olympic gold-medal USA teams in 1996 and 2000. [34]

Thorn rejoined the Nets organization on June 2, 2000, and he was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2002 after the Nets advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. [35] During the 2010 offseason, Rod Thorn announced he would step down from the Nets' organization.

On August 11, 2010, Thorn was hired as president of the 76ers, taking over the title from Ed Stefanski, who remained with the team as the general manager. [36]

On October 18, 2011, prior to a press conference introducing the 76ers' new ownership group, it was announced that Stefanski was leaving the organization and Thorn would be both president and general manager. In 2012, Tony DiLeo was named the team's general manager, but Thorn retained his title as president. [37]

On July 10, 2013, the National Basketball Association announced that Rod Thorn had been named President of Basketball Operations, effective August 1, after Stu Jackson decided to step down. [38]

On April 26, 2014 Thorn, on behalf of the NBA, suspended Wizard Nene Hilario from game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs. [39]

In 2015, Thorn briefly retired from the NBA. [40]

In 2015, Thorn, semi-retired, became a Special Consultant for the Milwaukee Bucks. [34] [41]

Of his career, “I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to be in the right place so many times,” said Thorn. “To come from a place with 7,000 people sometimes you pinch yourself and think, ‘Wow, how fortunate I’ve been.’ When I played we got $8 in meal money. We were like a barnstorming league. I can remember playing 16 straight days in preseason in one little high school after the next. You couldn’t tell me the NBA would end up where it is and I would be a first hand witness to so many great things. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of, just being on the scene and sometimes having a little something to do with what transpired. It’s been a lot of fun.” [2]

Personal life

He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in political science while playing and coaching for the SuperSonics. [2]

Thorn and his wife, Peggy, have a son, Jonathan, and twin daughters, Amanda and Jessica. [25]

“I’m not sure there are any others who have the hard earned understanding of the game,” former NBA commissioner David Stern said about Thorn. “People forget he drafted Michael Jordan, forget the Nets (under Thorn) were in the Finals two years in a row (after he pulled off the Jason Kidd trade), forget he was with the 76ers when they beat the Bulls in the playoffs as an eighth seed. He has a unique background and a unique personal approach.” [2]


NBA career statistics

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage 3P%  3-point field goal percentage FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game APG  Assists per game SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game PPG Points per game Bold Career high

Regular season

1963–64 Baltimore 7534.6.405.7314.83.714.4
1964–65 Detroit 7423.9.427.7243.62.211.0
1965–66 Detroit 2730.2.417.7323.72.413.9
1965–66 St. Louis 4620.1.423.6902.41.88.8
1966–67 St. Louis 6717.4.445.7272.41.88.8
1967–68 Seattle 6625.3.451.7374.03.515.2
1968–69 Seattle 2919.6.463.7322.92.811.5
1969–70 Seattle 195.5.444.6250.80.92.9
1970–71 Seattle 6312.2.472.6761.62.95.6


1966 St. Louis 1011.9.308.7781.71.03.8
1967 St. Louis 917.3.429.9263.11.210.1

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