NBA legend Dr. Jack Ramsay dies

Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title and later became well known as a color commentator for the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and ESPN, has died after a long battle with cancer, ESPN reported early Monday morning.

Ramsay, who was 89, won 864 games as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Braves, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers, ranking 13th all-time. When he resigned as Pacers coach early in the 1988-89 season, he trailed only Red Auerbach on the all-time victories list. Ramsay was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, and had called games on television and radio until the 2013 playoffs.

Ramsay, who held a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, waged a lengthy battle against cancer, which doctors discovered in 2004 on his left foot and which eventually spread to his lungs and brain before it went into remission, the New York Times reported in 2010. Late last week, Peter Vecsey reported that Ramsay had been moved to hospice care.

When Ramsay turned 89 on Feb. 21, Blazers Coach Terry Stotts wore a plaid blazer over a shirt with a wide collar — Ramsay’s sartorial trademark in the 1970s — in his honor.

Dave Deckard of BlazersEdge.com had this to say about Ramsay’s tutelage of the 1977 Blazers last year:

Ramsay conducted a stunning symphony of basketball that even now testifies to the way the game should be played.

It’s easy to forget how far ahead of his time Jack Ramsay was. He stood among the early physical fitness gurus. Running, swimming, general conditioning … this wasn’t just about basketball skill. He wanted you to go fast and to stay on the court as long as you were needed. He put his team through conditioning drills and took them seriously. He turned his team’s youth into an advantage, dictating the fast break as the first option. He didn’t want his bigs to hold rebounds or slow the game. Grab it, turn, fire the outlet, and get down the court. If the guards couldn’t get a layup the center could fill the lane on the secondary break.

Writes Jason Quick of the Oregonian:

Ramsay, you see, helped change basketball 40 years ago by teaching us how beautiful it can be when five players use one ball to work as one, to unite as one.

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