Nort Thornton, Former Cal Coach, Hospitalized With Heart Condition

Photo Courtesy: Cal Athletics

Former Cal swim coach Nort Thornton is in the intensive care unit at a hospital in California with a heart condition, according to sources near the former coach.

“His heart is weak and he has been informed that it will not get any better,” said former Cal swimmer and 1992 Olympian Roque Santos. “Nort is loved and he is one of the good ones. First class, always fair and always has a good joke — and always ready to talk about swimming.”

Thornton was Cal’s coach for 33 years before retiring in 2007. His impact has been strong on generations of swimmers, who are now sending thoughts and prayers his way.

“Marc (Nort’s son) has received over 50 calls in the last two days from the Cal family and the entire swimming community,” Santos said. “Marc knows the impact Nort has had on so many people’s lives. Nort created an environment where champions were inalienable. Through this he helped create great people. All of my Call swimming family knows that this is the cornerstone of what Nort created at Cal. We all love the man, the coach and the father.”

Through the years at cal Cal, Thornton’s teams 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.

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 graduate of San Jose State, Nort 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, Nort 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.

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.