He was born in San Francisco and swam and played college water polo for Stanford University. He was a member of the American water polo team which finished fifth in the 1956 tournament. He played two matches.
Gaughran was the head coach of Stanford's water polo team from 1969 to 1973, and was Stanford's swimming coach from 1960 to 1979. He coached Stanford's first NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championship team in 1967.
He is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame and the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame.
- "Stanford Men's Water Polo Media Guide" (PDF). Stanford University. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- "Stanford Men's Swimming and Diving". Stanford University. Archived from the original on January 8, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- "James Gaughran". USA Water Polo. Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
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