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Originally published April 28, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Page modified April 28, 2014 at 7:59 PM

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Jack Ramsay, former NBA coach, dies at 89

Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who guided the Portland Trail Blazers to their only NBA championship and who was regarded as one of pro basketball’s keenest strategists, died after a long battle with cancer. He was 89.


The New York Times and The Associated Press

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Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who guided the Portland Trail Blazers to their only NBA championship and who was regarded as one of pro basketball’s keenest strategists, died after a long battle with cancer Monday in Naples, Fla. He was 89.

Ramsay often was called Dr. Jack for the doctorate in education he received from the University of Pennsylvania. Coaches and players were also paying respect to his cerebral approach.

Ramsay emphasized preparation, dedication, unselfish play, a running game, tough defense and strong rebounding. He often put his teams through grueling practices.

Bill Walton, a standout center on the Blazers’ 1977 championship team who had played for the legendary John Wooden on NCAA championship teams at UCLA, called Ramsay “the very best coach I played for, and I played for some great coaches.”

Ramsay had an 864-783 record in 21 NBA seasons. He was famously intense, whether badgering referees or planning in timeout huddles, kneeling in plaid pants on a towel, a balding figure with bushy eyebrows and an intimidating glare.

Ramsay was also a physical-fitness buff, doing daily calisthenics, jogging and swimming even into his 80s, when he had cancer. He ended his broadcasting career with ESPN last year because of health problems and word came last week he had been placed into hospice care.

When Ramsay was named coach in 1976, replacing Lenny Wilkens, he took over a Portland team that never had a winning record in its six seasons in the league.

But Ramsay’s first Blazers squad, including Walton, forward Maurice Lucas and guard Lionel Hollins, captured the best-of-seven NBA title series by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers and superstar forward Julius Erving in six games.

Terry Stotts, Portland’s coach this season, has a mural above his desk showing Ramsay in his familiar game stance, kneeling on the court, with a quotation from him below: “Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals.”



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