Legendary NCAA basketball coach Joe Williams dies at 88 after cancer battle

The NCAA basketball world lost an absolute coaching legend over the weekend.

According to Fox News, Joe Williams, who coached Jacksonville University’s men’s basketball team in one of the most popular cinderella stories of March Madness tournament history, died Saturday at the age of 88. 

Williams’ son confirmed that his father passed while in hospice care after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Coach Williams was best known for his 1970 NCAA tournament run when he helped bring his tiny school — the Jacksonville University Dolphins — national fame after making it to the championship game, where they battled John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty.

Williams made history

Though his Dolphins ultimately lost to Wooden’s UCLA team in the championship game, the run Williams made to get to that point was considered historic in and of itself.

“Joe had this dream, in my opinion, to make us as good as we could be,” said coach Tom Wasdin, who took over headcoaching duties after the 1970 run.

He added: “We were trying to outcoach everybody and found out talent was more important than coaching. We didn’t have guys good enough to play against the big schools.”

In that magical 1970 run, Williams helped take his team to victory over a number of much larger and more talented teams, including Western Kentucky, Iowa, Kentucky and St. Bonaventure.

“Never got the credit”

Many, including Wasdin, aren’t convinced that Williams was given the proper credit he deserved for the storied, cinderella run.

“So we went out and got some very fine gentlemen in [Pembrook] Burrows, Gilmore, Morgan, Chip Dublin, and the rest is history. He turned JU from an NAIA school into a Division I power. Joe never got the credit for being as good a coach as he was. He won every place he went,” Wasdin said.

It might have taken fifty years, but with the number of tributes to the legendary coach on social media after his passing, it appears as though he’s finally getting that well-deserved credit, which undoubtedly will make his family even more proud than they already are.