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Thorn Heads Nets Operations

Rod Thorn, who spurned a job offer from the New Jersey Nets eight months ago, is set to become the Nets' president and chief of basketball operations today.

Word spread around the league Thursday that Thorn, the NBA's head of basketball operations, had accepted the job, although he did not return calls seeking comment.

NBA and Nets officials also refused to comment Thursday, but a news conference has been called by the Nets for 2:30 p.m. today.

A source close to the league told The Associated Press that Thorn would be leaving the NBA within two weeks.

The Nets tried to hire Thorn as president of basketball operations in the latter part of last year. The talks started in August and culminated last October with Thorn accepting a five-year, $7 million contract, the source said.

Within a week, Thorn backed out of the deal and decided to stay with the NBA, the source said. He was promoted from senior vice president to executive vice president of basketball operations, and his salary was doubled to about $800,000.

Thorn was an assistant coach with the Nets in their ABA glory days in the 1970s, then moved to the Chicago Bulls as general manager before joining the league office.

In taking the Nets' job, Thorn would be asked to turn around a woeful franchise that has missed the playoffs the last two years and only made it 10 times since joining the NBA in 1976-77. It has also had 10 seasons of 50-plus losses since the merger with the defunct ABA.

But the Nets have two of the game's finest young players in point guard Stephon Marbury and forward Keith Van Horn and also have the first pick overall in the NBA draft later this month.

Thorn would also get to pick the team's new coach.

Don Casey was fired a week after the Nets (31-51) finished the regular season.

That was the start of a franchise facelift. President Michael Rowe, who had run the team since October 1995, resigned a week after that, and the team also started a search for a director of basketball operations, a new position.

General manager John Nash reportedly will be fired soon.

There have been reports in the past week that former Georgetown coach John Thompson and Pacers general manager David Kahn were being seriously considered for the job as director of basketball operations. Michael Jackson, one of Thompson's former players and a former TNT executive, would become president.

With the NBA, Thorn runs the league's on-court operations, including scheduling, officiating, game conduct and discipline.

Thorn oversaw the NBA's ceation of new rules last fall that were meant to curb physical play.

A guard at West Virginia, Thorn was the second pick in the 1963 NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets. He later played for Detroit, St. Louis and Seattle, averaging 10.8 points in his career.

Thorn joined the coaching ranks in 1971 as an assistant to Lenny Wilkens in Seattle and moved to the Nets in 1973-75. After a year as coach of the St. Louis Spirits, he returned for two more seasons in New Jersey. He left to become the Bulls general manager from 1978 through 1984, when the team drafted Michael Jordan. He coached the Bulls for 30 games in 1992.

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