“Use your imagination. Imagine the life you want to live, and live it.” – Dr. Jack Ramsay
Few people have been able to live the life of Dr. Jack Ramsay. Others could hardly imagine it. Oftentimes, people will use the phrase when referring to two similar people that they “were cut from the same cloth.” Dr. Jack owned a cloth to himself. There was simply no one like him.
Dr. Jack passed away today at the ripe age of eighty-nine. He was a legendary basketball coach having taken the Portland Trailblazers to its only NBA Championship in 1977. He was a remarkable student and analyst of the game as he covered NBA games for ESPN on television and radio up until May 2013. But, he was and accomplished far more than a Hall of Fame, championship, or legendary distinction could ever sum up. For a true accounting of the life of Dr. Jack, you only need to read this piece written today on ESPN.com from him son and ESPN senior director, Chris Ramsay.
Throughout my life, I have always watched the NBA. I grew up watching the Bad Boys in Detroit, Showtime in Los Angeles, and Michael Jordan’s run through the 90s to the Kobe/Shaq days in Los Angeles, the Spurs consistent and dominant run, and the birth and growth of LeBron and the Big Three in Miami. Being a night owl, I would turn on TNT and lately, ESPN, to catch the late games. That was my first exposure to Dr. Jack as he served as an analyst for many of those games.
My real pleasure over the past three or so years as I drove from Maysville to Northern Kentucky and back for baseball games and practices. On the way home, I got the opportunity to listen to games being aired on ESPN Radio 1530AM with Dr. Jack on the call. In all of sports, perhaps only Vin Scully, long-time legendary announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is able to paint a better picture of a game on that radio. However, it was not just an eloquently painted picture that Dr. Jack created so well. He elicited a knowledge for the game and an ability to partner so seamlessly with whoever his mate was at courtside. I learned about the pick-and-roll, the triangle offense, and transition defense in more depth from my late night car rides listening to Dr. Jack.
But, Dr. Jack also started to plant the seed in my mind about being a better coach, new ideas to look for, and what it takes to be a great teammate. Today, I had an opportunity to come across “Dr. Jack Ramsay’s Dozen Absolutes in Coaching.” All of these are excellent examples (particularly from a basketball perspective) of how to maximize potential and really make a team impact. But, as I think today about Dr. Jack and took some time to reflect on the incredible tribute that his son penned about his life, the final absolute, No. 12, really sums up the type of coach, analyst, and gentleman this world lost today.
“Teams that never concede defeat can accomplish incredible victories.”
Throughout his life, Dr. Jack never conceded defeat. He cared unconditionally for an ailing wife that did not even know him through her final years. He fought back his battles with illness and countless operations with a drive to never stop living and being the best he could be each day. He refused to yield to a changing landscape of the game of basketball from his days to now, but instead chose to change and learn with it. He asked questions, learned from others, and always placed the service of others before himself.
Dr. Jack accomplished incredible victories during his time in this world. He lived a life modeling standards that we should seek to emulate and pursue in our own lives. He imagined a great life for himself, then went and lived it to unimagined levels. The sum of his days was the life of a man that will have exponential value on this world long after he is gone.
Dr. Jack has now been called to a better place by a higher power…and that is his most incredible victory of all.
Bring your best today!