James Gaughran - Hall Of Fame Coach

James Gaughran (USA)
2015 COACH
BirthplaceSan Francisco, California, United States Current City
CountryUnited States FlagAmerican
Birthplace:San Francisco, California, United States
Current City:
Country:United States
Birth Date:
  • As a San Francisco native, Gaughran showed promise in swimming at a young age.
  • He was a multi-sport athlete in water polo as well as competitive swimming.
  • At the collegiate level, he competed for Stanford as an all-American caliber water polo player and swimmer. 
  • In 1960, he made the decision to coach swimming and water polo at a high level instead of pursuing a lucrative career in law. His fulfillment in life is attributable to his choice of a passionate profession.
  •  While coaching, he played a key role in a 1973 United States delegation visit to China that was sponsored by the U.S. State Department. In essence, Gaughran was not only an ambassador of his sport, but also an ambassador of his nation. 
  • Coached Stanford University to co-champions of the 1967 NCAA D1 Swimming & Diving Championships
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He grew up in San Francisco where he was taught to swim by his father at China Beach, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. At Sequoia High School, in Redwood City, he developed into a champion swimmer and water polo player under coach Clyde Devine, who predicted Jim Gaughran would one day be an Olympian.

Moving on to Stanford University, he excelled as a two-time NCAA All-America Swimmer, first team All-Conference water polo player, and was captain of both teams his senior year. Upon graduation he continued to play water polo for the Olympic Club of San Francisco while attending Stanford’s Law School - and was selected to play for the USA water polo team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

In 1960 Jim was married to his high school sweetheart Joan, was a father, and had a job as a lawyer in the office of the California Attorney General when he got a call from Stanford’s Athletic Director; his old coach, Tom Haynie, was retiring - Would he consider taking the job?

His decision to leave law and enter coaching was one he’s never regretted. As Stanford’s coach from 1960 to 1980, he has trained 26 Olympic swimmers, who set 26 world records and won eight gold, two silver, and five bronze medals.

He attributes his success to those who have helped him along the way, starting with Clyde Devine and Tom Haynie. Then, from observing the coaching, training techniques, and methods of George Haines, who coached several of his Stanford swimmers at the Santa Clara Swim Club. Even his great coaching rival, Peter Daland at USC – and of course to all the athletes he coached.

In the 1967 season, Stanford tied USC, ending their long string of winning dual meets, but most observers still believed the NCAA Title would belong to either USC or Indiana. But from the first event at East Lansing to the last, Stanford swimmers swam lifetime best performances and broke many NCAA and American records. Stanford’s 800 free relay broke the American record by an unbelievable 8.1 seconds. After the meet, Ohio State’s Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Peppe, called Stanford’s championship performance “the greatest team effort ever!”

Perhaps of greater historical significance than anything he did at Stanford, was his role as head of the delegation for the swimming team trip sponsored by the U.S. State Department to China in 1973. It was the first official State Department sponsored cultural exchange to China since 1949. His leadership and diplomacy in interacting with China’s diplomatic, athletic and political leaders, including Jiang Qing (Madame Mao) has been credited by both the Chinese and American governments with helping to pave the way for the normalization of relations between the nations. In 2013, over 200 former members of China’s national swimming and diving teams attended a Fortieth Anniversary Celebration of that exchange at the Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, to thank Jim and the other members of the US delegation for helping bring China back into the Olympic family of sporting nations and ending the Cultural Revolution.

Adding to the great aquatic tradition of Stanford University, Jim Gaughran becomes the twenty-fifth Cardinal to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.