Jack Ramsay, the coach who led the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 National Basketball Association title and retired with the second-most wins in the league, has died. He was 89.
He died today in Naples, Florida, after battling cancer for more than 15 years, ESPN reported, citing family members. Ramsay worked for ESPN as an analyst.
The coach known as “Dr. Jack” led the Blazers to their only championship during the second of his 10 seasons leading the team. He coached the Philadelphia 76ers from 1968 to 1972, the Buffalo Braves from 1972 to 1976, the Blazers from 1976 to 1986 and the Indiana Pacers from 1986 to 1988.
He retired with 864 career victories, second at the time only to Red Auerbach, who led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA titles. Since Ramsay’s retirement 11 other coaches have surpassed him in wins.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1992, calling him “a teacher, motivator and true basketball aficionado” whose “preparation for games was impeccable and attention to detail extraordinary.”
A new generation of basketball fans got to know him through his broadcasting career, which ran until last year, when he retired from ESPN.
Ramsay’s death comes as the Blazers hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round playoff series with the Houston Rockets.
Last October, the Oregonian newspaper of Portland reported that the current coach, Terry Stotts, posted a mural in his office of a quote from Ramsay to inspire this year’s Blazers: “Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals.”
Ramsey was known as well for the daring fashion he displayed courtside, featuring plaid, flared pants and wide collars. Asked about his wardrobe in 2007, he said, according to the Oregonian newspaper: “I gave it away, and they were reluctant takers, even the Goodwill.”
John T. Ramsay was born on Feb. 21, 1925, in Philadelphia and graduated high school in neighboring Upper Darby Township. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1949 from Saint Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
He coached basketball at the high school and college levels before becoming general manager of the 76ers in 1966, then coach in 1968.