MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Rod Thorn, the schoolboy legend from Princeton who became an All-American guard at West Virginia and ultimately spent five decades in the NBA as a player, coach and executive, has been elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 2018 class that includes Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Grant Hill will be unveiled officially this weekend at the men’s Final Four, according to an ESPN report.
Thorn, now 76, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1963 NBA draft but remains better known for how he utilized the No. 3 pick in the 1984 draft — when as GM of the Bulls he selected Michael Jordan.
Thorn later spent 14 years as the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, doling out tough disciplinary measures even while his people skills helped maintain congenial relationships with teams.
He joined the Nets’ front office in 2000 and engineered a trade for Kidd that resulted in the franchise making its first two appearances in the NBA finals.
To Mountaineers fans, he was beloved for being the third in a line of basketball greats that included Hot Rod Hundley and Jerry West. From 1961 through 1963, Thorn averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game over three seasons and led WVU to a 34-4 Southern Conference record and two NCAA bids, though West contended that by acquiescing to the immense in-state pressure to attend WVU, Thorn “did something that may not have been the best for him at that point in his life.”
Thorn will be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as contributor to the game, having had his fingerprints on a league that survived financial struggles in the ’60s and ’70s to generate more than $6 billion last season.
“I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to be in the right place so many times,” he told NBA.com in 2015. “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.”