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'Dr. Jack' earned a spot in hearts, history

Blazers' winningest coach still inspires current playoff team


by: COURTESY OF THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS - Jack Ramsay coached the Portland Trail Blazers for 10 years, 1976 to 1986, earning an NBA title in 1977. The Hall of Fame coach spent the final years of his career as a commentator for ESPN.The Trail Blazers' winningest coach, Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, died Monday morning, April 28, in Naples, Fla., after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 89.

"Dr. Jack" was known for his teaching ability, belief in team basketball, physical fitness, colorful sideline fashion, broadcasting abilities, kindness and much more.

Blazers owner Paul Allen called Ramsay "an authentic original" who "set a standard of excellence for his players, coaches and all who crossed his path. He was that rarest of men with a unique style that was inspirational and motivational about basketball and life itself.

"We loved him as a coach, as a broadcaster and as a human being."

Ramsay completed at least 20 triathlons and worked out regularly until a few years ago, even though he was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 and later had prostate cancer, various tumors and a marrow syndrome.

His wife, Jean, died in January 2010 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2001.

Ramsay was born Feb. 21, 1925, in Philadelphia, where he was captain of the St. Joseph's University basketball team and earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he returned Saint Joseph's and coached the Hawks to seven NCAA tournaments, including the 1961 Final Four and a preseason No. 1 ranking in 1965.

JACK RAMSAYHis 21-year NBA coaching career began in 1968 in Philadelphia, where he was general manager of the 1966-67 NBA champion 76ers.

Ramsay coached the Blazers for 10 seasons (1976-86), with nine trips to the playoffs.

He succeeded Lenny Wilkens and took Portland to its only NBA title in his first year. The Blazers, led by Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and others, won four in a row in the championship series to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 4-2.

The 1977-78 team performed even better during the regular season and finished with 58 wins before an injury to center Bill Walton led to an early postseason exit.

Ramsay left Portland with 453 regular-season victories, still the most by any Blazers coach (Rick Adelman won 291 games in five-plus seasons).

The Blazers retired uniform number 77 — symbolic of the '77 championship team — in honor of Ramsay during a ceremony in 1993.

Ramsay, who wrote "The Coach's Art" and "Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball," was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. He was named one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history in 1997.

He became a broadcaster in 1990, working games for Miami Heat television. He became one of the NBA's premier analysts, doing games for ESPN Radio from 1996-2013.

Bill Schonely, the Blazers' first and longtime play-by-play man, noted Ramsay's sense of humor.

"I can't think of a funnier guy on the face of this earth," Schonely said, "or someone who had a bigger influence on the way I think about basketball and life in general.

“As far as the game of basketball, he was a genius. He had the great ability to put a group of people together as a team. And that was his great success. He was an outstanding teacher of the game.”