MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Heat President Pat Riley and Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra traveled to Naples for the funeral of Hall of Fame coach, and one of the NBA’s most respected broadcasters, Jack Ramsay.
Dr. Jack Ramsay died April 28th at the age of 89.
A funeral mass was celebrated at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church Thursday.
He was remembered as someone endlessly devoted to his family, fitness and faith.
Chris Ramsay delivered his father’s eulogy, calling him “a basketball genius.”
“His teams were an extension of himself,” Chris Ramsay said. “They were smart and they outworked the opponent. He taught a team game, where sharing and giving was required. His game, when executed properly by the right personnel, was unbeatable. … His trophy case collapsed under the weight of all the awards.”
But the overriding theme of the funeral was not basketball. It was faith.
Ramsey, a devout Catholic, would routinely find an early morning Mass to attend in cities that his broadcast work took him to before hopping onto a flight to either head back home or call a game in another city.
At his family’s annual reunion last year, Ramsay rose from his seat at the head of a table and urged his children and grandchildren to take their faith more seriously.
“My dad was special in so many ways,” Chris Ramsay said. “He was a multi-faceted man with many interesting sides to his personality and life. He had many names. He was John T. Ramsay, Coach Ramsay, Jack Ramsay, Dr. Jack, Dad and Pop. Each personality added to and complemented the other, each forming and shaping the other into one unbelievable man.”
“We’re celebrating the life of a child of God and a man of faith,” said Fr. John J. Ludden, the church’s pastor.
Ramsy led the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship before his career in broadcasting—which included 8 seasons of Heat television broadcast.
“He’s probably forgotten more about the game than I know,” Riley once said of Ramsay, whom he counted as a close friend.
Ramsay coached in the NBA for parts of 21 seasons before embarking on a second career as an NBA analyst. He was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 and later battled growths and tumors that spread to his legs, lungs and brain, then later fought prostate cancer and most recently a marrow syndrome.
His affinity for fitness never wavered, though. 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 that he was stricken with. He often spoke of his love of swimming in the Gulf of Mexico near his Naples home or jogging in a pool or from wall to wall in his hotel room when he was traveling on NBA assignments.
Ramsay also spent several years late in life caring for his wife, Jean, who was diagnosed in 2001 with Alzheimer’s disease. She died in January 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 there for his senior season. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949, explaining the “Dr. Jack” moniker that most players and fans simply knew him by.
Ramsay’s biggest impact on Hawk Hill would be when he started coaching his alma mater in 1955. He was wildly successful there, going 234-72 and taking the Hawks to the NCAA tournament seven times, the Final Four in 1961 and to a No. 1 preseason ranking by Sports Illustrated in 1965.
Ramsay took over as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968, moved on to the Buffalo Braves in 1972 and took his craft to Portland in 1976 — where he took a team with stars like Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas and delivered an NBA championship in his first season, beating the 76ers in six games in the final series.
Indeed, that was his lone NBA title. Walton got hurt the next year, crippling Portland’s chances of getting back to championship form during that era. Ramsay coached the Blazers for nine more seasons without another trip to the finals, and spent the final three years of his NBA sideline career in Indiana — resigning from the Pacers in November 1988 after the team got off to an 0-7 start.
Ramsay was 864-783 in his NBA career, being named one of the league’s Top 10 all-time coaches in 1996.
When he left the Pacers, Ramsay carefully did not use the word “retire,” and began working as a television analyst on 76ers games. Eventually, he worked on Heat television broadcasts for eight seasons before moving full-time to ESPN for radio and TV commentating before the 2000-01 season.
Ramsay is survived by his five children, their spouses and 13 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
The Dr. Jack Ramsay ’49 Scholarship
St. Joseph’s University
5600 City Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19131.
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