Lawrence to return as Kimball athletic director
Jun 12, 2014 | 3157 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Joe Lawrence will soon be back in familiar territory as Kimball High’s athletic director.

He returns to the post four years after his first term as the school’s original athletic director in the 2009-10 school year.

Lawrence said this week that he had been offered and had accepted the job, replacing former athletic director Steve Thornton, who retired at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Tracy Unified School District announced Lawrence’s new job Thursday, but it won’t become official until the board of trustees takes a formal vote at its regular meeting June 24.

Lawrence, 50, built Kimball’s athletic program during a year when the school’s sports facilities, including the fields, gymnasiums and stadium, were still a work in progress, and he had to find off-campus venues for the Jaguars teams to practice and play.

At the end of that year, he left the athletic director job to focus his time on coaching the first Kimball varsity boys basketball team. He continued in the role for four years and at the end of the 2013-14 season resigned from that post.

Lawrence said he wanted to take a year off from coaching and focus on teaching and his family, but he saw the opportunity to get involved again when Thornton announced his retirement.

“It was great to have someone like Steve take that position,” Lawrence said. “He set a good pattern for the athletic program. It’s just a matter now of taking the reins and continuing what he has been doing.”

While Lawrence’s challenges his first year included construction of the new sports fields, he now has to find a way to keep them open during an extended drought. The school’s irrigation source, West Side Irrigation District, has to cut back on water deliveries this summer, which could cause the baseball and softball fields to dry up and become unplayable next spring.

“The district has been working on it, too,” Lawrence said. “We’re just trying to find a long-term solution to the water problem.”

Lawrence is taking over at Kimball as Thornton goes into his second retirement. Thornton, 64, first retired in 2009 after 17 years as West High’s original athletic director and boys basketball coach, but he couldn’t resist a chance to head up a new athletic department at Kimball High.

“I only planned to do it for a year, and four years later I’m still doing it,” Thornton said.

This time, Thornton is retiring at the same time as his wife, Kristi, who was one of the first teachers hired at Kimball High in 2009.

“I decided that when she retired, it was time for me to get out,” he said.

Thornton still plans to stay involved in athletics through the California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac-Joaquin Section, where he coordinates playoffs for football, basketball and baseball.

Contact Bob Brownne at or 830-4227.

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