What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
To me, Jack Ramsay will always be the man who got me interested in basketball, and at the time he did it, that was a tall order. Those of you under 30 don’t remember what a time of malaise the late 1970’s were for the NBA. There was such parity in the league that the league was really hard to watch. The merger with the American Basketball Association had not produced the super-league like the NFL, and more importantly, there was no national television coverage to speak of, except for the playoffs.
As a kid in southern California, this meant to watch the NBA meant the Los Angeles Lakers on local television. That also meant watching a lot of bad teams; the western conference was stocked with hapless teams like the Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Seattle SuperSonics.
But then 1976 came. One night in November, the Portland TrailBlazers came to town, and they matched up with the Lakers like no other team in the West I had seen up to that time. They were coached by this bald guy who wore some seriously loud outfits, and his team played at a pace I’d never seen. That season saw the Portland TrailBlazers run over, around, and through the NBA, scoring over 110 points per game in an era that didn’t have the three-point shot.
The TrailBlazers won the NBA Championship that season in an epic six-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Injuries, particularly to star center Bill Walton, meant the TrailBlazers would never claim another league title, but the style of play invented by Dr. Jack Ramsay would certainly live on, most notably with the “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980’s.
John T. “Dr. Jack’s” Ramsay’s journey through life and basketball began with his birth on February 21, 1925 in Philadelphia. He enrolled at Saint Joseph’s University in 1942, where he eventually became captain of the basketball team. Later, Ramsay earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania, which is were the “Dr.” tag came from.
Ramsay began coaching Saint Joseph’s in 1955, where he enjoyed a great deal of success. He notched a record of of 234-72 and led the Hawks to the NCAA tournament seven times and the Final Four in 1961. Ramsay often said that his years at St. Joseph’s were the most fulfilling of his life, largely because that was when he met his wife, and because he played a large role in the growth of the “Big 5,” the annual Philadelphia basketball series involving Saint Joseph’s, La Salle, Penn, Villanova and Temple.
In the professional ranks, Ramsay coached in the NBA for parts of 21 seasons. Ramsay became coach of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968, joined the Buffalo Braves in 1972, and brought his craft to Portland in 1976. That TrailBlazer team featured stars such as Bill Walton, Lionel Hollins, and Maurice Lucas, and that team took the NBA championship in Ramsay’s first season as coach. He finished his coaching career with the Indiana Pacers in 1989, but that was not the end of his career. Ramsay went from the sideline to the broadcast booth, where he spent 21 years as one of the best announcers in basketball.
Ramsay was 864-783 in his NBA career and in 1996 was honored as one of the league’s all-time top 10 coaches, and he will be missed.