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Saint Joseph's Athletics | April 28, 2014

Former Saint Joseph's coach Ramsay dies

Jack Ramsay coached Saint Joseph's into the NCAA tournament seven times. Jack Ramsay coached Saint Joseph's into the NCAA tournament seven times.

Former Saint Joseph's player and head coach Jack Ramsay died Monday at his home in Naples, Florida, at the age of 89 after a decade-long battle with cancer.

One of the greatest teachers in basketball history, Ramsay, known affectionately throughout the basketball community as "Dr. Jack," made his mark in the collegiate and professional ranks, and more recently as a broadcaster, up until his retirement.

Born in Philadelphia, Ramsay began his affiliation with Saint Joseph's as a member of the Hawks' teams of the late 1940s, eventually becoming captain for his senior season, and went on to earn his doctorate in education from Penn.

BIG 5 INFLUENCE

Jack Ramsay was a founding father of sorts for the growth of the Big 5, the annual Philadelphia basketball series involving Saint Joseph's, La Salle, Penn, Villanova and Temple.

''I felt a lot of personal pride and interest in the outcome of those games,'' Ramsay told The Associated Press in 2004. ''There wasn't as much interest in conference play. There wasn't the impact of a national championship or conference championships like there is today. The Big 5 was clearly the biggest thing any of those schools were involved in at that point.''

-- The Associated Press

Ramsay began his coaching career in 1955 when he took over as head coach of the Hawks. During the course of 11 seasons at Saint Joseph's, he amassed a 234-72 record (.765 winning percentage) and guided the Hawks to five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and nine consecutive postseason bids, both of which are school records.

His 1961 team made the school's only appearance in the Final Four and the 1965-66 Hawks were chosen as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation by Sports Illustrated.

While at Saint Joseph's, Ramsay mentored five eventual NBA head coaches -- Jack McKinney, Paul Westhead, Jim Lynam, Matt Guokas and Jim O'Brien -- along with future NBA assistant Jim Boyle.

Ramsay also played baseball for the Hawks for one season and served as that team's head coach from 1956 to '58.

After leaving Saint Joseph's following the 1966 season, his first position in the professional ranks was as general manager of the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers. That team won the world championship and is considered one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.

As a head coach in the NBA, Ramsay won 864 games in 21 seasons and guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 title.

His combined total of collegiate and professional victories is 1,098, one of the highest ever in the sport of basketball.

Ramsay received the highest honor in the game when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Jack Ramsay won 234 games at Saint Joseph's. Jack Ramsay won 234 games at Saint Joseph's.
A member of the Saint Joseph's Athletics Hall of Fame (1999), SJU Basketball Hall of Fame (1974) and the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame (1974), Ramsay was furthered honored by the university in 2009 with the naming of the Ramsay Basketball Center. The Ramsay Center, which is adjacent to Hagan Arena, houses the SJU men's and women's basketball programs with offices, locker rooms, study spaces and a film room.

To Ramsay, the most significant part of the Saint Joseph's years was this: ''I met my wife there,'' he said.

His family announced his death, saying he ''led the greatest life that one could lead.''

Ramsay 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 and most recently a marrow syndrome.

PHOTO GALLERY

Jack Ramsay is forever remembered in Saint Joseph's lore as a player, coach and Hall of Famer.

Photo Gallery

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. He often spoke of his love of swimming in the Gulf of Mexico or jogging in a pool or from wall to wall in his hotel room when 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 2010.

''Great man,'' Orlando Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who played at Saint Joseph's, wrote on Twitter. ''The Greatest Hawk ever. He will be missed but never Forgotten.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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