John Thurston Promoted to Head Coach of St. Francis Women's Basketball
St. Francis College introduced John Thurston as the new head women’s basketball coach after serving the past two seasons as associate head coach. Thurston replaces Brenda Milano who resigned after completing her ninth season leading the Terriers.
“Although we are sad to lose Brenda, I’m excited about the impact John will make as head coach,” St. Francis College Athletic Director Irma Garcia explained. “In just two seasons, he’s helped make great strides in all facets of the program. Our recruiting has improved tremendously and he’s brought fresh ideas with regards to practice, preparation and game strategy.”
“I would like to thank President Dugan, the members of the Board of Trustees and most especially AD Irma Garcia for the opportunity they have given me to lead this program,” Thurston said. “I want to personally thank Brenda Milano for her support, without which this opportunity would not have occurred. Brenda is an outstanding young coach, the nicest person I have ever worked with and someone the coaching profession needs. I’m look forward to continue working with the outstanding young women on our team. Their enthusiasm, desire and work ethic are the building blocks upon which we will base our program. Go Terriers!”
Thurston brings a wealth of experience to the sidelines in Brooklyn Heights. He is one of only a few coaches who have been a Head Coach at the NCAA DI, DII, DIII and NAIA levels in 26 years of coaching men's college basketball from 1971-1997. During the early 1970's, his Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham teams were known for their high scoring offense, averaging almost 100 points per game.
During the following ten years as an assistant and three as Head Coach at James Madison University, the Dukes went to four NCAA tournaments and one NIT. For his tremendous efforts in the 1986-87 season, Thurston was named the Colonial Athletic Association "Coach of the Year."
In nine years at Wingate University he served the dual role of Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach and is credited with moving the athletic department from NAIA status to nationally competitive NCAA DII affiliation.
From 2001-2003 Thurston held the position of General Manager at Atlanta's Suwanee Sports Academy establishing widely respected basketball training programs and bringing national events such as the Adidas Showtime Championships and Adidas Top Ten All-Star game to the Atlanta area.
While planning the Suwanee Sports Academy venture Thurston took over the girls program at Marist High School in Atlanta in 1999. During each if his three years at the helm the War Eagles broke school records for wins and advanced to the State Tournament with a pair of Elite Eight appearances. His teams were ranked in the Top Ten in Georgia all three years and six of his players went on to play college basketball, five at the DI level.
Thurston returned to collegiate coaching in the fall of 2003 to serve as Ann Hancock's top assistant at UNC-Wilmington and has been involved with the women's game for nine years on both the major and small college levels.
“I am truly excited for Coach Thurston,” said Hancock. “He is most deserving of the opportunity to be the head coach at St. Francis. John has dedicated his life to serving student athletes over the course of his thirty plus year career. He is a student of the game and is consistently trying to find ways to help others improve. The characteristics that separate him in my mind are his creativity and compassion. His creativity is evident in his ability to make old drills new and improved. He is undoubtedly the best teacher I have seen, and his compassion and caring can be seen in the way he has stayed connected to former players, coaches and students. It is certainly not unusually for him to call just to check in on those he has coached. St. Francis is fortunate to have such a wonderful representative for their basketball program. I know he will do an outstanding job and take St. Francis women’s basketball to new heights.”
In 2005 Thurston moved to Northwood University in West Palm Beach, FL to develop the school’s first ever women's basketball program. In their first two seasons of competition, the Seahawks, with twelve freshmen won back-to-back conference championships and had an appearance at the NAIA National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa. Thurston was named Florida Sun Conference "Coach of the Year" in 2008. In two years his recruits garnered two "Players of the Year," one "Rookie of the Year" and six All-Conference awards.
Thurston has gained respect through the years as an evaluator and developer of talent, coaching two NBA players, six overall NBA draft choices, seven European professionals, four "Rookies of the Year", three "Players of the Year", one "Defensive Player of the Year", eighteen All-Conference selections, three 2000 point scorers and thirteen 1000 point scorers. Twelve of his former players have already been elected to their school’s Hall of Fame.
A 1966 graduate of Archbishop Molloy High School he was an All-City performer in both baseball and basketball under legendary Coach Jack Curran and was a 1966 draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He continued his education at Seton Hall University graduating with a degree in Government. He played both baseball and basketball for the Pirates and was awarded the John F. Kennedy Award in 1970 as the school's outstanding student-athlete. He and his wife, Candice, have been married for 40 years and have two daughters, Clancy and Corey and four grandchildren, Jack, Rhone, Luke, and Elsa.
Thurston will take the helm of a program that Milano helped transform. She led the Terriers to back to back Northeast Conference tournaments, including the 2006-07 season when Milano’s bunch recorded a stunning upset of the top seed Long Island University Blackbirds. It was the only time in NEC Tournament history that a #8 seed defeated the #1 seed. With 58 victories, Milano is the third winniest coach in St. Francis history.
“I would like to thank St. Francis College, the athletic administration, Ed Aquilone, Irma Garcia, Dr. Macchiarola and President Dugan for the opportunity to be the women’s basketball coach at St. Francis College,” Milano said. “I have had an unbelievable experience and will miss working with my players and colleagues. Although leaving is bitter sweet, I couldn’t be more proud to have John take over the program. It has been a pleasure working with him for the past two years, and I have no doubt that the team will have a promising future for years to come.”
“St. Francis will miss Brenda and she will always be a part of our family,” said Garcia. “We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors and thank her for the many contributions that she has made here. Brenda set a great example of leadership for all of her players during her tenure.”