Alabama A&M names Dawn Thornton as new Women’s Basketball Head Coach

Alabama A&M University President Dr. Daniel K. Wims and Director of Athletics Dr. Paul A. Bryant introduced on Saturday Dawn Thornton as the fifth head women’s basketball coach since becoming a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and joining NCAA Division I.
Thornton comes to Alabama A&M after spending the past five seasons as the head coach at SWAC  institution Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Dawn Thornton to the Alabama A&M University family as our new head women’s basketball coach,” Bryant said. “Coach Thornton’s remarkable record of success, both within the SWAC and against formidable out-of-conference opponents, speaks volumes about her prowess and strategic acumen in the realm of collegiate basketball. Her leadership qualities, combined with a deep understanding of the game, make her the ideal candidate to elevate our program. 
“We are eagerly anticipating the energy, expertise, and excellence she will bring to our team, and we are confident that under her guidance, A&M women’s basketball will achieve new heights of success. The future is bright for our program with Coach Thornton at the helm.”
Thornton, who has experience at the NCAA Division I and Division II level as a head women’s basketball coach, has compiled a 102-159 overall record in nine seasons at Prairie View A&M, Shorter and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In addition, she led the Golden Lions to a signature victory over Arkansas this past season, a first in program history.
Last season, Thornton guided Arkansas-Pine Bluff to a fourth-place finish in the SWAC, with a 17-16 overall record and 12-7 mark in conference play. The program notched a 74-70 win at Arkansas on Dec. 10, 2023, and had notably victories over SMU (78-76) and McNeese State (103-87). Also, she collected her 100th career win in a 78-57 victory over Mississippi Valley State on March 2.
In addition to the highlighted wins, Thornton’s players racked up numerous accolades throughout the season. 
Zaay Green received SWAC Player of the Week honors five times, Coriah Beck earned the honors once, while Kaila Walker, Demetria Shephard, and Maya Peat were selected SWAC Impact Players of the Week. Green earned All-SWAC First-Team honors, while Beck and Peat were selected to the second team.
“I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Daniel K. Wims, AD Dr. Paul Bryant, and the entire search committee for their faith in me to lead this women’s basketball program. My family and I cannot wait to embrace new opportunities in engaging the Normal community,” Thornton said. “Alabama A&M is a national household brand that rings bells everywhere we go. It is my goal to continue to build off the success that this program has already achieved. 
“We look forward to recruiting and retaining student athletes who want to start and continue their legacy’s as Lady Bulldogs. Together, along with the support of the best fans in the conference we will work relentlessly to bring a championship to ‘The Hill’. Go Bulldogs!”
Thornton hit the ground running during 2022-23 season, leading the Golden Lions to a successful recruiting class, with several key newcomers (former five and three stars) that will picked up from last season. 
In 2021-22, Thornton improved throughout the season, winning the Southern Mississippi Tournament, and knocking off Tulane all in the same year.  Under her guidance, UAPB recorded its highest overall wins in over 10 years. 
In addition, Thornton oversaw the development of the standout Zaay Green, who was named SWAC Newcomer of the Year and mentioned as one of the top players on several WNBA Scout lists.  
During the 2019-20 season, Thornton, who is commonly known as “Diva Coach”, inherited a program consisting of four freshmen and four transfers; yet, led the team to outperform the preseason poll that picked UAPB to finish last in the SWAC. Under Thornton’s leadership, the Golden Lions tripled their SWAC win total from the previous season and qualified for the conference tournament for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
Thornton mentored freshman center, Nissa Sam-Grant, who in her first season donning a UAPB jersey, emerged as one of the most electrifying newcomers in the SWAC. Sam-Grant finished the season fourth in the conference with 1.5 blocks per game.
Thornton was named the Arkansas-Pine Bluff head coach in May of 2019 after spending the previous season as assistant coach at Atlantic Sun Conference perennial power Jacksonville University. 
After a late start in August of 2017, Thornton served as head coach at NCAA Division II Shorter University where, in one season, she led the surge from last in all major statistical categories to the middle of the conference and developed the Northwest Georgia Player of the Year.
From 2014 to 2016, Thornton served as the head coach at Prairie View A&M, capturing the program’s fourth consecutive SWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament title and NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament berth in 2014 while being honored as the HBCU Digest Female Coach of the Year. 
On Thornton’s watch, Prairie View A&M posted wins over Memphis, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State, Nicholls State and Lamar University, and compiled a 12-2 record in SWAC Tournament play. Thornton served as associate head coach at Prairie View A&M from 2012 to 2014, where the team won three consecutive SWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament titles and three NCAA Tournament berths.
Thornton helped coach two SWAC Players of the Year – Latia Williams (2013) and Jeanette Jackson (2015). Jackson, who was recruited by Thornton, was also named SWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship MVP in 2014 and led the conference in scoring (18.8). Jackson went on to play professionally with several teams in Europe. 
Thornton also recruited and coached Mississippi JUCO star Kiara Etienne, who earned SWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship MVP honors in 2013, Shamiya Brooks, who led the SWAC with 11 double-doubles and 4.0 offensive rebounds per game in 2014-15, and Larissa Scott, who ranked fourth in the NCAA in offensive rebounding (5.0) in 2015-16.
Prior to her time as associate head coach, Thornton solidified her reputation as one of the best recruiters in the conference. She recruited and developed seven First Team All-Conference players, two Conference Players of the Year, two Conference Freshmen of the Year, and one Defensive Player of the Year from 2010 to 2014 at Prairie View A&M. 
Thornton began her coaching career as an assistant coach at Tougaloo College from 2007 to 2010 where she was integral to the Lady Bulldogs’ best record in 12 years and Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal appearance during the 2009-2010 season.
Thornton received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Jackson State University in 2005, where she helped lead the Lady Tigers basketball team to a SWAC Regular Season Co-Championship during her junior and senior years. She played her first two seasons at Atlanta Metropolitan College where she led the team to consecutive. 
Thornton, who is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc, is married to Alabama A&M defensive ends coach Cedric Thornton, who joined the Bulldog football staff in February. The couple have one son (Camden).

Tagged with: