Rod Thorn's Next Stop is the Hall of Fame
Two stints with the Nets were crucial stops in a 50-plus year career
"I've seen everything probably twice," says Rod Thorn.
If he's wrong, if there's something he has missed, well, it's probably not worth seeing.
That's a fair way to sum up a professional basketball life that has spanned more than 50 years and counting and has brought Thorn to this week's induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018. It says something about Thorn's place in the game that he'll be inducted by the logo himself, Hall of Famer Jerry West. The former Lakers player and GM was a senior at West Virginia when Thorn arrived as a freshman.
From player to coach to general manager and NBA VP, Thorn has indeed covered it all. Along the way, two stretches with the Nets played a significant role in propelling Thorn to Springfield.
It was in the summer of 2001, just over a year after he'd joined the Nets as general manager, that Thorn made a fateful trade to alter the course of the franchise's history -- and his own legacy. The deal for Jason Kidd spurred the Nets on to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, six straight playoff appearances, and four division titles in five years.
Now Thorn will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Kidd.
"It's ironic to start out with that I would be going in at the same time as Jason," said Thorn. "Obviously Jason was going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer with the career that he had, but also a guy I worked with at the NBA office, Rick Welts, is going in. Two-fold for me. I'm happy for myself, but I'm happy for those guys also."
Thorn's unexpected post-playing career began with the Nets in their earliest days, back in the NBA during the franchise's seventh season.
"I was going to go to law school," said Thorn. "All set. I got a call from Kevin Loughery, who was the new coach of the New York Nets of the ABA. He offered me a job as an assistant coach. I talked it over with my wife. She wasn't sure if it was the right decision. I said I wanted to do it and she went along with it and that started the odyssey I've been on ever since."
Loughery had been Thorn's teammate in Baltimore during his rookie year. Thorn was the No. 2 overall pick in 1963 after starring at West Virginia. A 6-4 guard, he averaged double figures in each of his first four seasons and then a career-high 15.2 with the expansion Seattle SuperSonics in 1967-68. He played three more years with the Sonics before the effects of a knee injury caught up to him.
"When my career ended in Seattle, I played eight years but I had a serious injury my sixth year when I ripped my knee up and had an operation and four months later I had another one on the same knee," said Thorn. "That happened during the time that you didn't have arthroscopic surgery. They opened your knee up and before they closed it you already had arthritis."
That first year with the Nets, he wound up on the bench as Julius Erving led the Nets to their first title. Two years later, Thorn was a head coach with the Spirits of St. Louis. In 1978, he took over as general manager of the Chicago Bulls, where he made a decision that set the course of the NBA for the next two decades when he made Michael Jordan the third overall pick of the 1984 NBA Draft.
He spent more than a decade in the league office after leaving the Bulls before joining the Nets in 2000. These days, he keeps in the game as a consultant for the Milwaukee Bucks.
"To succinctly put it, I've been very, very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time several times," said Thorn. "I have loved every minute of it. Whether I was with a team or the league. Two different times with the league. Obviously with the team it's all about the team and how you're doing and you live and die with every win and every loss. With the league, you want everybody to do well with every aspect of it and you're mostly concerned with the long-term than the day-to-day. I've enjoyed every facet."
Catch the Brooklyn Nets this Season