Hall of Fame NBA coach Dr. Jack Ramsay died Monday in Naples, Fla., having battled cancer for more than a decade and a half.

He was 89. Family members say he died peacefully in his sleep.

Ramsay, also an ESPN analyst, coached the St.Joseph’s Hawks from 1955-66, winning 234 games before he coached 20 years in the NBA, during which he emphasized fitness, selflessness, ball movement and skill — qualities that carried his Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title.

Ramsay has long been an icon in Portland, remembered as much for his distinctive 1970s fashion sense as for the city’s only NBA championship.

Ramsay attributed a lot of his coaching philosophies to his time in the Navy during World War II, where he worked in underwater demolition, the forerunner of today’s Navy Seals. He wrote about it on ESPN.com in 2011.

“I learned how important physical conditioning is. I learned how to focus on an objective in spite of all kinds of hazards. I learned how to deal with stress, too,” he wrote. “If you make a wrong move with explosives, it could be deadly. If you’re there when they blow up the beach, you get blown up, too. So you need to get your job done correctly … then pull the fuse with enough lag time for you to clear the area completely and get picked up by the small boats.

“I also learned that my connection with my team members was best handled by being in there with them.”

Ramsay was born in 1925 and attended Upper Darby high school and St. Joseph’s University, both in Pennsylvania. After the Navy, and coaching at St. Joseph’s, he coached the 76ers, the Buffalo Braves, the Trail Blazers and the Pacers.


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