Jack Ramsay was a legend well before I really knew him.

I was a fresh-faced cub reporter, in my second year at The Oregon Journal, when the Trail Blazers went on their magic ride to the National Basketball Association championship in 1977. I was fortunate enough to write some sidebars during the playoff run, and wrote the first-edition game story for the deciding Game 6 that year. It hangs framed on the wall of my den.

But my beat assignments through Ramsay’s Portland years were elsewhere, and I didn’t get to really know him until after he retired from the coaching profession and began to work in broadcasting in the early ‘90s, as an analyst for the Miami Heat and with ESPN.

Since that time, I’ve sought out Ramsay often, either via phone, on his visits to Portland or during the NBA playoffs or finals. It was an advantage that I worked for a Portland newspaper. We had a connection because of that.

Ramsay was always generous with his time and instructive with his appraisals of players, teams and events in the NBA. At the end of our interviews, he would invariably ask how I was doing, what I thought about the Trail Blazers, in his kind and noncondescending manner.

The last time I spoke with Ramsay was last June via phone from his condo in Naples, Fla., after he had been forced to withdraw from his radio analyst job during the playoffs due to cancer complications. He was polite but not his typical upbeat self. When I asked how radiation treatment was going, he answered, “I’m not doing good.”

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I drummed up the courage to ask about a prognosis.

“Kerry,” he said, “this doesn’t get better.”

Stumbling now, we engaged in a little chit-chat. We talked about his 10 years here.

“I love Portland,” he said. “The early years, in particular, were wonderful. That team

had a rare commodity of players with skills and attitudes.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime


I told him how well-regarded he remains in Portland, how much the fans still loved him.

“Well,” he said, “I love them back.”

I called his son, Chris, a senior director with, to ask how he felt his father was doing. Some good days, Chris said, and some bad days. The end was nearing.

“One of the greatest times in dad’s life was when he was living and coaching in Portland,” Chris told me. “He’ll always have a special place in his heart for that city.”

Ramsay is gone now, but his spirit remains. A No. 77 banner hangs in the rafters at the Moda Center in his honor. A street near the Rose Quarter will bear his name.

For the Blazers and the city of Portland, Dr. Jack was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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