Former Blazers Coach Jack Ramsay Dies At 89

Christian Petersen

Former Portland Trail Blazers coach Jack Ramsay has died.

ESPN is reporting that former Portland Trail Blazers coach Jack Ramsay died Monday at the age of 89.

A Hall of Fame coach who led the Blazers to the 1977 title, the only championship in franchise history, Ramsay had been in an extended battle with cancer.

Hall of Fame NBA coach Dr. Jack Ramsay died Monday in Naples, Fla., having battled cancer for more than a decade and a half.

Family members say he died peacefully in his sleep.

His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

Ramsay compiled an 864-783 (.525) overall record as an NBA coach; he coached the Blazers from 1976 until 1986. He retired as a coach in 1989 and later enjoyed a long broadcasting career. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported on Twitter earlier this week that Ramsay had been moved into hospice.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts honored Ramsay earlier this season by wearing a 1970s jacket.

Dave wrote an extended essay on Ramsay's legacy in 2013.

If this is the end of Jack Ramsay's long career the entire Portland basketball community can stand up and proclaim that he did something for us that mattered, endured, and has yet to be forgotten. He changed the way we viewed the game, our franchise, its players, and in some ways even each other. If Jack Ramsay had not graced Portland's sidelines 35 years ago the words we share every day and the community they form would not be the same. Blazer's Edge as you know it would not exist. No doubt something would be here, but I can't imagine that something being nearly as good.

Thank you, Dr. Jack. To a basketball world in a little corner of the country, your work meant everything.

The Blazers issued a lengthy statement on Monday morning.

His colorful coaching style was matched only by his equally colorful fashion sense on the sidelines. But sadly, the most prolific head coach in Portland Trail Blazers history has passed away, according to family members. Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached the franchise to its first and only NBA Championship in 1977, lost his battle with cancer during his sleep early today in Naples, Florida. Affectionately called "Dr. Jack" by Trail Blazers fans and all around the NBA, Ramsay was 89.

Ramsay coached the Trail Blazers from 1976-1986, highlighted by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers for the 1977 NBA Title. Overall, Ramsay accumulated a record of 864 wins and 783 losses in 21 years of coaching with four NBA franchises - Philadelphia (1968-72), Buffalo (1972-76), Portland and Indiana (1986-89). His record in 10 seasons at the helm for the Trail Blazers was 453-367 (.552). In 1992, Ramsay was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, along with the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. The Number "77" hangs retired in the rafters of Moda Center in salute to Ramsay.

"The Portland Trail Blazers and indeed the NBA have lost an authentic original in Dr. Jack Ramsay. In leading this franchise to its first NBA Championship, Dr. Jack set a standard of excellence for his players, coaches and all who crossed his path," said Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen. "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."

"We have lost one of the pivotal figures in the history of our franchise. Dr. Jack not only led this organization to its first NBA Championship, but his indomitable spirit and character impacted the lives of our players, coaches, fans and staff," said Chris McGowan, President & CEO of the Trail Blazers and Moda Center. "He is - and always will be - the personification of a true Trail Blazer. We will miss him, and so will the world of sports."

"Few people have made a bigger impact on the Trail Blazers organization, the city of Portland or the game of basketball than Dr. Jack," said Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey. "As the son of a Naval Veteran myself, I have always valued and admired Dr. Jack's service in the United States Navy and dedication to our country. In the end, not only have we lost a Trail Blazers great and basketball icon, but in fact a national treasure."


Ramsay stepped into the broadcast booth in 1990 as a television analyst for the Miami Heat. But his most extensive and best-known span as a broadcaster came as an NBA analyst for ESPN Radio, stretching from 1996-2013.

"I have always had tremendous respect and admiration for Coach Ramsay. He was a great coach, a great person, and a great ambassador of the game of basketball," said Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts. "He had a positive influence on many players and coaches throughout the years, including myself. He will be missed and will always be remembered as a true Trail Blazer."


"I was with him every day he was here in Portland, and I can't think of a funnier guy on the face of this earth, or someone who had a bigger influence on the way I think about basketball and life in general," said legendary Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely. "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."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement on Monday.

"Today, the NBA family mourns the loss of one of the true legends of our game, Dr. Jack Ramsay. From his coaching tenure to his broadcast work, Dr. Jack left an indelible mark on every facet of our game and on every person he came in contact with, including me. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends."

Chris Ramsay, son of Jack, wrote a tribute to his father for ESPN.com.

No matter what we say about Jack Ramsay today, it will seem inadequate. It won't be enough.

He led such a great life. He did so many great things. He was a great man, a giver.

In his public life, he was famous, a Hall of Famer, a world champion. He had colorful friends named Cotton and Hubie and Halberstam and Talese. He traveled the world teaching, coaching and broadcasting. He brought Wilt Chamberlain home for dinner.

He was a basketball genius, a true innovator. He taught a team game. A pure form of basketball. Sharing and giving. With the right personnel, it was unbeatable. He pushed the very best to be even better: Billy Cunningham, Bob McAdoo, Bill Walton and Reggie Miller all learned from him how to elevate their games. Later, you'd see him talking with Tim Duncan, Kobe, KG and D-Wade. He was telling them how to be better players and teammates. They all listened, and they all got better.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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