No. 44 already hangs from the rafters at WVU Coliseum, but it will have a different meaning going forward.
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons announced on Thursday that the university will again retire No. 44, this time in honor of Rod Thorn. The number had already been retired for Jerry West in 2005.
“Two of our state’s most famous natives have worn No. 44 for our basketball program. Like Jerry West, Rod Thorn has been a source of pride for West Virginians everywhere,” Lyons said. “Not only was he an outstanding basketball player, but his list of career achievements has taken him to the pinnacle of the sport.”
Thorn, a Princeton, West Virginia native, played at WVU from 1960-63, directly inheriting the No. 44 uniform from West. He averaged 21.8 points and 11.1 rebounds over his 81-game career in Morgantown.
He will be the third WVU basketball player to have his uniform number retired, joining West and “Hot” Rod Hundley.
Thorn went on to be the No. 2 overall pick in the 1963 NBA Draft by the Baltimore Bullets and also played for the Detroit Pistons, St. Louis Hawks and Seattle SuperSonics in an eight-year NBA career.
He later coached the ABA’s Spirts of St. Louis and was the general manager of the Chicago Bulls from 1978-85, overseeing the drafting of Michael Jordan.
Thorn also was the NBA’s vice president of operations from 1986-2000 and also was Che chair of the USA Basketball selection committee that chose gold medalists in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
He was an executive for the New Jersey Nets from 2000-10 and was named NBA executive of the year in 2002. Thorn was later president of the Philadelphia 76ers from 2011-13 and president of NBA basketball operations from 2013-15. Even after semi-retiring in 2015, he served as a consult for the Milwaukee Bucks from 2015-18 and is currently a special advisor for the Washington Wizards, returning to the franchise where his NBA career began.
Thorn was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and was an inaugural member of the WVU Montaineer Legends Society in 2017. Thorn was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as an executive and contributor in 2018.