OXNARD -- Mike Thornton, Orange Coast College's head women's basketball coach for 29 years, was inducted into the California Community College Women's Basketball Coaches Association (CCCWBCA) Hall of Fame last week.
"I was blown away by all of the people who came to my induction to the hall of fame," Thornton said. "Coaching at OCC was the highlight of my 49-year coaching career. At one time, I was advised by some of my friends when I was coaching at Marina HS to not take the job. OCC hadn't been too successful in women's basketball in recent years and Fullerton and Golden West were two of the best programs in Southern California at that time. They said I would have a hard time winning there. It was the best advice I DIDN'T take in my life!
"The best thing about the job, in my opinion, was the lifelong relationships I've made, the ones that are so important to me, all came from my time with OCC basketball. All of my former players who came back to coach with me, as well as people like (OCC Foundation Director) Doug Bennett, who are going to be friends with me for life."
Thornton, who retired after the 2018 season, had a career record of 584-333 (.637) at OCC, plus he had 147 wins as the Marina High School girls head coach before coming to OCC in 1989.
One of Thornton's greatest coaching achievements was leading his 2002–2003 team to the California State Community State Championship in 2003.
More than 80 players who played for Thornton continued their basketball careers at four-year colleges and university across the country at schools such as UCLA, UCI, Cal State Fullerton, UNLV, the University of New Orleans, St. Mary's, Concordia University, Northern Colorado, Mercer and Cal State Bakersfield. An additional 80-plus student-athletes transferred to four-year colleges and universities but did not play basketball.
Other notable achievements in Thornton's long OCC career include:
- Three State Final Four appearances
- Five State Elite Eight Appearances
- 16 All-State Players
- 23 postseason appearances in 29 seasons
- Two 30-win seasons
- Nine 25-win seasons
- 15 seasons with 20-or-more wins
- 23 seasons with a season record above .500
Thornton was welcomed to the Hall of Fame by two of his former OCC players who are now community college players, Santa Ana College head women's basketball coach, Flo Luppani and Palomar College head women's basketball coach, Leigh Marshall.
Coach Thornton was cheered on at the CCCWBCA Banquet of Champions in Oxnard by a large contingent of family, friends and a dozen of his former players.