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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.
Thorn from The Monticola, 1963
|Born||May 23, 1941|
Princeton, West Virginia
|Listed height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Listed weight||195 lb (88 kg)|
|High school||Princeton (Princeton, West Virginia)|
|College||West Virginia (1960–1963)|
|NBA draft||1963 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall|
|Selected by the Baltimore Bullets|
|Position||Point guard / Shooting guard|
|Number||44, 10, 22|
|1965–1967||St. Louis Hawks|
|1975–1976||Spirits of St. Louis|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||5,012 (10.8 ppg)|
|Rebounds||1,463 (3.1 rpg)|
|Assists||1,214 (2.6 apg)|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame|
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.
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.
Thorn attended West Virginia University. He wore #44, the same number as Jerry West, who had just graduated. At WVU, he was an All-American guard in basketball, as well as playing three seasons on the WVU baseball team.
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.
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. 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.
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. Thorn was again selected as a 2nd Team All-American beside Bill Bradley, among others.
Overall, Thorn averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in 81 games during his three seasons at West Virginia.
NBA playing careerEdit
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).
St. Louis HawksEdit
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.
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.
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).
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.
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. 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.
Overall, in eight NBA seasons, Thorn averaged 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 466 games.
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. The Nets then won the 1974 ABA championship, led by Julius Erving.
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.
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.'"
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.
Basketball executive careerEdit
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).
In 1984, he famously oversaw team's selection of Michael Jordan with the No. 3 pick of the 1984 NBA draft. (he also selected track star Carl Lewis, with the draft on the eve of the 1984 Olympic Games, simply for patriotic publicity purposes).
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.
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.
From 1986 to 2000 Thorn was the NBA's Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, serving as the league's chief disciplinarian.
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.
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. During the 2010 offseason, Rod Thorn announced he would step down from the Nets' organization.
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.
In 2015, Thorn briefly retired from the NBA.
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.”
Thorn and his wife, Peggy, have a son, Jonathan, and twin daughters, Amanda and Jessica.
“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.”
NBA career statisticsEdit
|GP||Games 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|
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