MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the second time in program history, West Virginia will retire the number 44 Saturday afternoon at halftime during the Mountaineers’ game against Oklahoma.
The number 44 was previously retired in 2005 five for basketball legend Jerry West. Saturday’s ceremony will honor another WVU great, Rod Thorn. Thorn played for the Mountaineers from 1960-63, directly following West’s career. Thron said he never imagined this happening.
“I’m tremendously humbled by this. It’s a great day for the Thorn family,” Thorn said before the game Saturday. “You think back to when you matriculated here and you never anticipate or think about a day like this happening. But it has and I’m just very appreciative and very thankful.”
Thorn averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in his college career, helping WVU to a 70-18 record in his three seasons. When thinking back on his time at WVU, Thorn said he remembers the people he met more than any specific game.
“Games tend to run together when you think back on them,” Thorn said. “What I really remember here is the people, the fans, who were fantastic, the coaches, the players I played with, trainers, the people you dealt with on a day-in, day-out basis.”
Thorn said he remembers how successful the team was playing in the old WVU fieldhouse.
“It was an incredible home-court advantage, it really was,” Thorn said. “It was impossible not to get up. If you were having an off game, the crowd wouldn’t let you stay having an off game, it just inspired you.”
The fieldhouse, later renamed Stansbury Hall, was demolished last year.
Thorn went on to play professionally for a number of seasons and eventually became a coach and then executive in the NBA.
Thorn was inducted into the WVU sports hall of fame in 1982, was the 2002 NBA executive of the year, drafted Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls, chaired the selection of the 1992 USA Olympic “dream team” and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. He said WVU retiring his number is as big an honor as he has ever received.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of honors over the course of my adult life, this is right there,” Thorn said. “To be honored by your school, to be honored in the state where you grew up is a tremendous thing.”
Thorn’s is just the third jersey ever retired by the WVU basketball program, joining West and Hot Rod Hundley, who’s number 33 was retired in 2010.