|Position:||Head Coach Emeritus|
For Cal, Thornton had a dual-meet record of 231-85 (.731 winning percentage), produced two NCAA team titles and numerous individual champions, including 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 Cal squads 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.
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 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 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 Cal career during the 1974-75 season. For 28 of the 33 years he coached the Bears, Thornton's teams finished ranked in the top 10 in the national polls. The veteran coach was named National Coach of the Year twice and was 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. During Thornton's tenure as Cal head coach, 48 Cal athletes represented several countries in the Olympic Games, winning 29 medals, including 14 gold, 10 silver and five bronze. In addition, Milorad Cavic and current Cal sophomore Nathan Adrian, swimmers Thornton coached while still Bears head coach, earned medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with Cavic earning a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly and Adrian taking home a gold medal as part of the United States' 400-meter freestyle relay.
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.
Thornton, 75, graduated from San Jose State in 1956 with a degree in education and earned his master's degree from Stanford. Thornton and his wife, Carla, have three sons, Richard (50) and twins Marc and Gregg (47).