Dr. Jack Ramsay, one of the greatest NBA coaches of his time and a legendary broadcaster whose infallible knowledge enlightened fans for decades in his post-coaching days, died in his sleep early Monday morning.
He was 89.
Ramsay's family announced his passing on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike program. Mike Greenberg, one of the co-hosts, took to Twitter following the announcement to send his condolences:
ESPN.com later confirmed Ramsay's passing. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday, though details on private and public viewings have not been specified.
Over the past 15 years, Ramsay dealt with various forms of cancer. In 1999, he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. Five years later, he was diagnosed with melanoma before experiencing bladder cancer and tumors both in his brain and lungs. As noted by
The thing about Jack was he allowed freedom within the team concept. We were like a great jazz band, where each person could solo, but he had to come back to the group to keep the groove moving forward. Then, the next person might have a chance to solo the next night, but he needed the beat of the rest of us.
Ramsay's tenure in Portland ended following the 1985-86 season, after which he took over the Pacers for a short and mostly ill-fated stint. He resigned and walked away from coaching for good seven games into his third season on the bench.
Ramsay was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and compiled an 864-783 overall record as a head coach.
"And all the stress and general wear and tear on body and soul from 37 years of coaching at the high school, college, and professional levels?" Ramsay wrote in 2011, questioning whether his coaching had anything to do with his health struggles. "Hard to measure, of course, but I don't regret a single minute that I spent on the sidelines of the game to which I've devoted my entire adult life."
After stepping away from the profession that made him so famous, Ramsay found a second captive audience in broadcasting. Boasting the same inclusiveness and vast knowledge of the game he displayed in Portland, he grew almost instantly into one of television's finest color commentators.
Ramsay worked color with the Miami Heat and other franchises but is best known for his work at ESPN and ESPN Radio. He stepped away following last season when his health began to worsen.
Although Ramsay was out of the public spotlight for almost the entire last year of his life, his impact could be felt everywhere. Jeff Van Gundy's combination of knowledge and candor comes from the same place Ramsay's once did in the booth. Earlier this season, Blazers coach Terry Stotts honored Ramsay by wearing a 1970s-style plaid jacket.
“He has left a mark on so many people in our profession,’’ Stotts told Quick. “I can only wish him well and hope that he is comfortable.’’
Anyone who came into contact with Ramsay throughout his life has shared a similar sentiment. But even if Dr. Jack is no longer with us to share his stories, his impact on the game is far from over.
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