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Athlete Rodney King ‘‘Rod’’ Thorn, born May 23, 1941 in Princeton, was a West Virginia University basketball All-American (1962–63). Thorn was Princeton High School’s best basketball and baseball player and was heavily recruited by college teams. The straight-A student was leaning toward Duke University when the West Virginia legislature passed an unprecedented resolution declaring him a state natural resource.

At WVU, Thorn was given uniform number 44, the same as the legendary Jerry West. Though he played in the National Basketball Association, he might have been bound, too, for the major leagues to play baseball, his favorite sport. An injury, however, prevented him from playing baseball.

Thorn had an extended and distinguished career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a player and as a team coach, general manager, president, and as a league executive. In 1963, he was the second pick in the first round of the NBA draft and went to the Baltimore Bullets. He played with the Bullets, and later with the Detroit Pistons, St. Louis Hawks, and Seattle Supersonics. He was an assistant coach with the Sonics and the New Jersey Nets, and was head coach of the St. Louis Spirits of the old American Basketball Association before going to the Chicago Bulls as general manager. He also coached the Bulls for 30 games. As general manager, he drafted and signed Michael Jordan. He spent 10 years as the president of the New Jersey Nets, and then president of the Philadelphia 76ers from 2010 to 2013. For the next two years, he was the NBA’s president of Basketball Operations.

Thorn was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2018. In 2020, WVU retired his number 44.

This Article was written by Norman Julian

Last Revised on March 01, 2023

Related Articles


Julian, Norman. Legends: Profiles in West Virginia University Basketball. Morgantown: Trillium Pub., 1998.

West Virginia University Basketball Media Guide. 1998-1999.

Cite This Article

Julian, Norman "Rod Thorn." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 01 March 2023. Web. 29 May 2024.


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