Nort Thornton Retires as Cal Head Coach

July 26, 2007

BERKELEY - California head coach Nort Thornton, one of the deans of college coaching in the United States and the longest tenured coach at Cal, is retiring after 33 years at the helm of the Golden Bears men's swimming program, Cal Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour announced today. Thornton, who leaves Cal with a dual-meet record of 231-85 (.731 winning percentage), produced two NCAA team titles and numerous individual champions, including senior Patrick O'Neil, who won the 200-yard butterfly crown at the 2007 NCAA Championships. Thornton's final team took eighth place at the NCAA Championships last March in Minneapolis, Minn.

Through the years, his Bears have won 48 individual and relay NCAA championships and 108 Pac-10 individual, relay and diving titles. His 1979-80 and 1980-81 teams also captured Pac-10 team championships.

'Nort Thornton is truly a legend at Cal, where he has had a profound effect on every student-athlete he has coached,' Barbour said. 'His Bears have excelled in the pool and in the classroom, and we are grateful for his tremendous commitment to Cal athletics. We look forward to Nort's continued involvement in Cal aquatics and hope to work with him to identify several initiatives within the Department in which he can play an on-going role.'

In 2006-07, Thornton's Bears compiled a 5-3 dual-meet record (2-2 Pac-10) and claimed second place at the Pac-10 Championships. Cal also won three individual conference titles, with O'Neil claiming the 200 fly, junior Dominik Meichtry capturing the 200 freestyle and sophomore David Russell taking the 100 backstroke.

'It's been a great experience working with Nort over the past four years,' O'Neil said. 'I know many people over his career have enjoyed the same experience and would say it's one of the greatest times they've ever had. He will be missed. He's taught me not only a great deal about swimming but a great deal about life.'

It is a credit to Thornton's recruiting and coaching ability that the Bears have consistently been in a position to compete for the national crown. For more than three decades he has cultivated squads that combine some of the top local California talent with national and international blue chippers. Thornton's office is a testimony to his coaching ability with Olympic banners, photos of world record holders, NCAA championship trophies and mementos that span through his long and illustrious career. The veteran coach was honored for all of his accomplishments in May 1995 with his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Thornton started his Bears' career with the 1974-75 season. For 28 of the 33 seasons he has been at Cal, his teams have finished ranked in the top 10 in the various national polls. The veteran coach has been named National Coach of the Year twice and has been the Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, most recently in 1999.

A product of San Jose State, Thornton led the Bears to NCAA team titles in 1979 and 1980 and produced a long list of stellar All-Americans. He has an even more impressive collection of Olympians, including world record holder Matt Biondi, Anthony Ervin, who won the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Duje Draganja, who took silver in the 50-meter free at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Since Thornton took over the Cal program, 48 Cal athletes have represented several countries in the Olympic Games, winning 29 medals, including 14 gold, 10 silver and five bronze.

On the international level, Thornton has coached numerous United States teams in world competition. In 1979, he coached the U.S. squad in the FINA Cup in Tokyo, Japan, and then in 1981 coached the U.S. team at the World University Games. In the summer of 1983, Thornton was an assistant coach for the United States team at the Pan American Games at Caracas, Venezuela. He served in the same capacity at the 1986 World Championships in Madrid, Spain, and in Perth, Australia, in January, 1997, as well as at the '97 Pan Pacific Games in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

A past president of the American Swimming Coaches Association, Thornton has served on the ASCA Board of Directors and is a past member of the NCAA Rules Committee. He was also awarded the National Collegiate and Scholastic Award, which is in the International Hall of Fame, for his contributions to swimming as a healthful recreation activity for schools and colleges.

Championships Under Nort Thornton

48 NCAA Individual/Relay Titles

Team Titles: 2 (1979 and 1980)

Individual: 35

Relay: 13

108 Pac-10 Individual/Relay/Diving Titles

Team Titles: 2 (1980 and 1981)

Individual: 73

Relay: 33

Diving: 2

Nort Thornton's Cal Coaching Record
Year Rec NCAA Finish
1975 4-4 14th
1976 7-4 11th
1977 5-3 8th
1978 7-2 3rd
1979 9-2 1st
1980 11-2 1st
1981 9-1 6th
1982 8-6 4th
1983 7-1 8th
1984 7-3 6th
1985 5-5 4th
1986 6-3 2nd
1987 10-3 4th
1988 10-2 4th
1989 11-1 6th
1990 8-5 7th
1991 5-5 13th
1992 6-3 4th
1993 8-3 7th
1994 6-3 5th
1995 7-2 5th
1996 6-4 13th
1997 7-2 15th
1998 5-2 8th
1999 9-2 4th
2000 6-3 5th
2001 5-1 8th
2002 6-2 6th
2003 6-1 4th
2004 5-1 7th
2005 9-0 4th
2006 6-1 6th
2007 5-3 8th
Total 231-85 (.731) 33 years

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