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Coach led Blazers to 1977 NBA title

04/29/2014, 12:57am EDT
NBA coaching, broadcast legend dies at 89

This undated photo provided by Saint Joseph's University shows the school's basketball coach Jack Ramsay, center, when his team won his 200th career game. Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who led the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship before

MIAMI — Jack Ramsay served his country in World War II, coached Portland to the 1977 NBA title, was enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame, and became one of the game's most respected and revered broadcasters.

His life was, by any measure, complete.

"Our father led the greatest life that one could lead," the Ramsay family said in a statement released Monday, after the man that just about everyone in basketball called "Dr. Jack" died in Naples, Fla., at the age of 89.

No cause of death was announced, but Ramsay had fought several forms of cancer for many years and more recently was diagnosed with a marrow syndrome. Ramsay ended his broadcasting career with ESPN last year because of health problems and word came last week that he had been placed into hospice care.

"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," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

Ramsay coached in the NBA for parts of 21 seasons before embarking on a second career as an NBA analyst, eventually working for ESPN. He was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 and later battled growths and tumors that spread to his legs, lungs and brain, as well as prostate cancer.

Ramsay, who competed in at least 20 triathlons during his life, worked out regularly into his 80s, even as he battled the various forms of cancer.

Ramsay also spent several years late in his life caring for his wife, Jean, who was diagnosed in 2001 with Alzheimer's disease. She died in 2010.

John T. Ramsay was born Feb. 21, 1925, in Philadelphia and enrolled at Saint Joseph's in 1942, eventually becoming captain of the basketball team for his senior season. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949, which explains the "Dr. Jack" moniker.

Ramsay's began coaching Saint Joseph's in 1955. He had a 234-72 record, taking the Hawks to the NCAA tournament seven times and the Final Four in 1961.

Ramsay became coach of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968, joined the Buffalo Braves in 1972, and brought his craft to Portland in 1976. With a team featuring Bill Walton, Lionel Hollins, and Maurice Lucas, he delivered an NBA championship in his first season, beating the 76ers in six games for the title.

Ramsay was 864-783 in his NBA career. When he left the Indiana Pacers in 1988, Ramsay began working as a TV analyst on 76ers games. Eventually, he worked on Miami Heat broadcasts for eight seasons before moving full time to ESPN for radio and TV commentating.

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