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.”