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Coach Joe Williams Dies at 88, Finished NCAA Runner-Up with Jacksonville in 1970

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMarch 27, 2022

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former college basketball coach Joe Williams died of cancer at the age of 88 on Saturday, according to the Associated Press' Jim Vertuno.

Williams compiled a 336-231 record over spells at Jacksonville, Furman and Florida State. He began his coaching career with the Dolphins in 1966 and continued on until his final year with the Seminoles in 1985-86.

The Mississippi native is best remembered for guiding Jacksonville to the 1970 national championship game, where the Dolphins lost to the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins.

That Jacksonville squad included Artis Gilmore, who averaged 26.5 points and 22.2 rebounds in 1969-70. Gilmore eventually embarked on a professional career that sent him to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Williams left Jacksonville on the heels of that NCAA tournament success.

During his time at Furman, the Paladins won five Southern Conference tournament titles. Their Sweet 16 run in 1974 remains the only time the program has reached the regional semifinals.

Williams added a seventh trip to the NCAA tournament with Florida State in 1979-80.

Beyond the wins and losses, Joe Williams Jr. spoke to Vertuno about how his father left a larger legacy through his willingness to recruit Black players and push back against segregation.

"He was one of the first coaches in the South to do that," Williams Jr. said. "When Dad would travel with the team, if there was a restaurant that wouldn’t let the whole team eat together, Dad just packed the whole team up and they went to a restaurant where they could."

Jacksonville enshrined Williams into its athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.

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