A Rich History of Athletics: Celebrating the Tradition of JU Sports


e Dolphin community would recognize the likes of a Chris Anderson, the pitcher who was selected in the first round of this spring’s Major League Baseball draft or Josh McGregor who quarterbacked JU to a Pioneer Football League title.

Then there is the unmistakable Artis Gilmore, Hall-of-Fame basketball player who led JU to a national title game, who now works for the university.

But what about the guys who paved the way for these athletes, like Gilmore and the many others in the years before our time?

Most of us wouldn’t recognize the likes or even know of Dee Brown or Otis Smith or Roger Strickland. Granted they aren’t the athletes of our generation, but if it were not for them, we wouldn’t have the chance to go out and watch Coach Cliff Warren lead our basketball team to the A-Sun tournament.

There would be no football stadium to be built to provide a high-profile experience to see our Dolphins compete for a PFL title year in and year out. These luxuries are all possible thanks to the JU athletes and coaches of the past, and for that we owe them.

Here is a look at some of the “Distinguished Dolphins” who exemplified what being a student-athlete and collegiate coach is about.

First the obvious one, Artis Gilmore. Gilmore was voted as one of the Top-50 players of the 20th Century by The Sporting News. Gilmore is the NBA’s all time leading field goal percentage leader and one of the top left-handed scores in the league’s history.

Gilmore averaged over 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in his JU career and now has his number 53 jersey hanging in the rafters at the Veterans Memorial Arena and on the wall of the historic Swisher Gymnasium.

Gilmore would not have been at JU if it were not for the man who recruited him, Joe Williams. Coach Williams led the Dolphins to a number one ranking and the 1970 NCAA basketball championship game.

James Ray, a 1980 graduate, was the fifth player taken overall in the 1980 NBA draft and played three years for the Denver Nuggets. His number 43 jersey hangs alongside that of Gilmore’s. Ray led the Dolphins to the 1979 NCAA and 1980
NIT tournaments.

Six years later (1986) Otis Smith graduated from JU after scoring 1700 points and recording 900 rebounds for the basketball program. Smith was the 47th overall pick in the NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets in 1986 and one of the first 12 players selected by the Orlando Magic in the 1991
expansion draft.

Now, Smith has retired from the court and makes his home in the Magic front office as their General Manager. Donnie Hammond, a 1979 Dolphin Alum made a name for himself on the PGA Tour after winning the 1986 Bob Hope Desert Classic.

Hammond has 41 Top 10 and 126 Top 25 tournament finishes on his record. Dee Brown, who attended JU from 1986-1990 played 12 years in the NBA mostly for the Boston Celtics where he was a first round draft choice and winner of the NBA Slam
Dunk Contest. He was also a member of the 1991 All-Rookie team.

Brown spent time as a broadcaster for ESPN and coaching multiple teams in the WNBA. He currently serves as the Head Coach of the Springfield Armor.

Maybe our most notable Alumni of the last decade, Daniel Murphy, star of the New York Mets, played for the Dolphins from 2003-2006. He has spent the past six seasons with the team and has made a home atop the National League batting average list year in and year out.

Let’s not forget the only person to throw a nine-inning no hitter in Dolphins history, our current President, Tim Cost. Cost graduated from JU in 1981 and returned to the university to replace Kerry Romesburg as president.

As Homecoming weekend approaches, take a minute to learn about and reflect on how Dolphin Athletics came to fruition. Whether you hear about them or not, there are many alumni supplanted in our JU community who deserve recognition for furthering the legacy of the
Jacksonville University Dolphins.