Gymnastics names Ashley Priess-Johnston as next head coach

Nathan Brown, Contributing Writer

On Monday, Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne announced that Alabama gymnastics Hall of Famer Ashley Priess-Johnston has been named the newest head coach of the storied program. The former Alabama gymnast was a ten-time All-American, and was part of the 2011-2012 back-to-back national championship teams during her time in Tuscaloosa.

The decision comes following former head coach Dana Duckworth’s announcement to step down from the position after serving eight years as head coach and 27 years total with the program. Duckworth was also an assistant coach under the legendary coach Sarah Patterson during Johnston’s career as a student-athlete at Alabama.

Byrne said he is excited for the future of the program under Johnston.  

“Everyone we have spoken to holds her in the highest regards as a coach, mentor and leader, including long-time head coach Sarah Patterson, who I have had wonderful conversations with during this search and I really appreciate her support,” Byrne said. “Throughout this process with Ashley, we have been very impressed with her commitment to the total student-athlete. One of the grittiest and most accomplished competitors in our program’s proud history, she has translated her achievements as a gymnast into a standout career as a coach, and we are thrilled to have her back in Tuscaloosa.”

Johnston takes over the job following her tenure at Auburn as an associate head coach, helping lead the Tigers to their best season in program history last season. She was named WGCA Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year in her first season with the Tigers in 2019.  

Johnston began her coaching career at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy after a professional international career as a seven-year member of the USA National Team as a gymnast. 

The Crimson Tide hope for another successful long-tenured head coach, with Johnston joining Patterson and Duckworth as just the third head coach since 1979.

“I am honored to be trusted as your new head gymnastics coach,” Johnston said. “Thank you to Greg Byrne and the amazing executive team for allowing me to share my vision, passion, and commitment to student-athlete well-being and to the future of this storied program. I look forward to reconnecting with each and every one of you. With a very full heart, I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Roll Tide!’”  

The Crimson Tide have won six NCAA Championships, 10 SEC championships and an NCAA-record 32 regional titles. 

Johnston will be formally introduced at a press conference on Friday.