Dorm Report: You don't know (Dr.) Jack

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Updated: 5/01 5:21 am

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The "Sterling/Silver Show" has been one of the most dominant news stories in sports in quite some time, transcending more than just the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA.

All of the attention has taken some of the luster off the NBA playoffs for sure and served to nearly bury the sad news of Jack Ramsay's passing on Monday in Florida.

One of the most respected and knowledgeable individuals on basketball at both the college and pro levels, Ramsay lost a long battle with cancer at the age of 89, but not before leaving a profound mark on the game he loved.

Unlike a few notable athletes who carried with them the title of doctor - such as Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Dwight "Doc" Gooden and Glenn "Doc" Rivers - Ramsay actually earned such a degree (in education) from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. Disciples of Ramsay will be the first to tell you he possessed one of the greatest basketball minds of all-time.

Dr. Jack was born in Philadelphia in 1925, graduated from an Upper Darby High School that includes such fellow alumni as actress/writer Tina Fey and musicians Jim Croce and Todd Rundgren and saw his pursuit of a college degree at St. Joseph's College briefly interrupted by a three-year stretch in the military during the tail end of World War II. Never one to limit himself, while attending St. Joseph's, Dr. Jack played both basketball and baseball, and he eventually played professionally in the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League.

Ramsay may not have been a superstar during his playing days, but it wasn't long before he found his true calling as a coach and eventually a beloved broadcaster.

Dr. Jack started out supplementing his player income by coaching at a couple high schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and by staying close to home it made it that much easier to make the transition to becoming the head coach at St. Joseph's in 1955.

In 11 seasons as the head man on Hawk Hill, Dr. Jack generated a 234-72 record (.765 winning percentage) and led the school to its only appearance in the NCAA Final Four, finishing in fourth place after losing a heartbreaking matchup with Utah, 127-120, in four overtimes.

During a stretch when he mentored future NBA head coaches Jack McKinney, Paul Westhead, Jim Lynam, Matt Guokas and Jim O'Brien, Ramsay also found the time to play one season of baseball for SJU and serve as a professor in Saint Joseph's Department of Education.

Ramsay's next endeavor took him to the NBA as he assumed the general manager position for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1966. Almost immediately he gained instant credibility as the team won the NBA title in 1967, but sitting behind a desk and away from the action on the floor was not enough to keep him satisfied.

The next logical step for Ramsay was to return to the sidelines and take over as the head coach of the 76ers in 1968. He spent four seasons with his hometown team before accepting the same position with the Buffalo Braves for the same length of time, but it wasn't until he landed in Portland in 1976 that he finally achieved the ultimate goal - capturing the 1977 NBA title against, coincidentally enough, Philadelphia.

The stretch in Rip City lasted a decade before Ramsay took his flamboyant and gaudy attire to Indianapolis for one last hooray with the Pacers, leading them to only their second non-losing record as an NBA team at the time.

Voted one of the 10 greatest coaches in NBA history as part of the NBA's 50th anniversary in 1996, Ramsay was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 after amassing a record of 864-783 over 21 campaigns.

The definition of a renaissance man, Ramsay, who authored several books during his lifetime, tried his hand as a television color commentator for both the 76ers and the Miami Heat before taking on a national role on radio and TV for ESPN. A linguistic Picasso, very few people in his position synthesized and described the game as well as Ramsay, painting an aural picture with clarity, depth and understanding.

Hearing of his passing, tweets arrived from all corners of the sports world, past and present players, coaches and co-workers, and somehow you have to believe that 144 characters could in no way capture the full breadth of Ramsey's influence on basketball.

On Wednesday night, as Trail Blazers took on the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their series at the Toyota Center, the visitors did so with a plaid-based patch honoring the memory of the coach who led them to their first and only NBA title, now almost four decades ago. The patch is just the first of many tributes the team says it will have to honor the colorful Ramsay.

Perhaps current SJU basketball head coach Phil Martelli summed up the accomplishments of Dr. Jack best when he said, "Saint Joseph's has a Mount Rushmore - and it's one person. It's not a group - it's just one person - Jack Ramsay."

Ramsay, one of the most respected ambassadors for the game of basketball, was a Jack-of-all-trades, the likes of which we may never see again.

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