Former Heat broadcaster and Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay dies
Jack Ramsay left many indelible marks during his time as a Miami Heat broadcaster. One was assisting in ”Kaboom!” becoming Eric Reid’s call for a made 3-pointer.
”’Kaboom’ was born in the backseat of a cab with Dr. Jack in the early ’90s,” Reid said Monday afternoon while remembering Ramsay, who died in the early morning hours at 89.
”We were on our way to the United Center for a game against the Chicago Bulls and Jack gets the cab driver into this enlightening conversation about life in general, as he always would.”
When the discussion got around to sports, the cab driver said he loved listening to Bulls games on the radio because broadcaster Neil Funk said ”Kaboom!”
”That very night, I said I was going to throw one in and I’ve been Kabooming ever since,” Reid told FOX Sports Florida from Charlotte. ”And if it wasn’t for Jack engaging that cab driver in conversation, that would not be part of Miami Heat broadcast lexicon.”
Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, died in his sleep in Naples, Fla. He had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 and later battled growths and tumors that spread to his legs, lungs and brain. He later fought prostate cancer and most recently a marrow syndrome.
”This is a very sad day for basketball, not just professional basketball, but the entire basketball world,” Miami Heat coach and president Pat Riley said in a statement. ”The game has lost a giant today. Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I’ve been with the Heat running the team.
”Our sympathies go out to his family and to all the people who really cared about Jack and what he’s meant to them and what he’s meant to this game. His legacy will live on through all the coaches and all the player’s he’s had relationships with over the years.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s father, Jon, was a Trail Blazers executive from 1979-90.
”I’ve known Dr. Jack since I was 8 years old,” Erik Spoelstra told reporters Monday morning in Charlotte. ”He was one of the few familiar faces when I came to the Heat.”
A longtime broadcaster following his coaching days, the man known as ”Dr. Jack” worked beside play-by-play man Reid on Sunshine Network (now Sun Sports) and FOX Sports Florida Heat telecasts from 1992-2000. He also worked for ESPN.
”A life well-lived like few others,” said Reid, who said he worked more than 500 telecasts with Ramsay. ”With the Heat family, we were all blessed to have had Jack cross our path, and to have done so during such a beautiful time in his life — done with the rigors and stress of coaching, and totally relaxed and at peace as a basketball ambassador and broadcaster.”
Among Ramsay’s popular calls were ”This away, that away, Hardaway!” when point guard Tim Hardaway made a 3-point shot, and ”Bottom of the net!” when a Heat player hit a nice shot.
When Ramsay celebrated his 88th birthday in February last year, Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted, ”My 1st basketball advice when I took control of the @MiamiHEAT came from Dr Jack. Happy birthday Jack Ramsey 88 yrs young today.”
”The Heat family has lost a great man today,” Arison said in a statement. ”When I first bought the team, we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to for advice. So for a few days, he was the entire basketball organization for the Miami Heat. Over the years I often turned to him for advice and he will be sorely missed by us all. My deepest sympathies to his family and all that loved him.”
Ramsay once told FOX Sports Florida about his early dealing with Arison, CEO of Carnival Corporation.
”He said he’d like to sit down and have a talk about the NBA and basketball,” Ramsay recalled. ”So I went to his office and we talked for a couple of hours about my perspective of the NBA. He had high ambitions right from the start. I started the conversation by saying, ‘Well, first of all, the NBA is big business.’ And he put his hands up and said, ‘Wait a minute.’ And he points to the Carnival ship models around the office and said, ‘That’s big business. Compared to that, the NBA is way down there.’ ”
Ramsay also recalled Arison saying he wanted to lure Pat Riley to South Florida.
”I remember him saying in that first meeting he wanted to bring in Pat Riley as coach and Riley was coaching the Knicks at the time,” Ramsay said. ”I said, ‘Wow. I don’t know how you’re going to do that.’ ”
During his playing career, Heat broadcaster John Crotty remembered interacting with Dr. Jack.
”I remember seeing him and asking his advice. He’d always stop what he was doing and give me the time of day,” Crotty said from Charlotte. ”He was incredibly respected by everyone — from management, coaches, players. He treated everybody with great respect, whether you were a star or a player on the end of the bench.”
Players and coaches weren’t the only recipients of Ramsay’s knowledge.
”I still have the letter and savings bond he sent after the birth of my daughter Helen in 2000,” said Ted Ballard, the executive director of broadcasting for the Heat. ”Jack expressed the joys of parenthood and fatherhood and the great journey we were about to embark on as parents.”
A Philadelphia native, Ramsay began his head-coaching career at St. Joseph’s University in 1955. He then coached the Philadelphia 76ers (1968-72), Buffalo Braves (1972-76), Portland Trail Blazers (1976-86) and the Indiana Pacers (1986-88).
”One time I interviewed him and, knowing he was a Philly guy who coached at St. Joe’s, ‘I ended the interview saying, ‘Jack, remember, the hawk will never die,’"’ said Tommy Tighe, Heat Radio Network pre- and halftime host. ”Every time I saw him after that, either I would say that to him or he would come up to me and say, ‘Remember, the hawk will never die.’"
Ramsay compiled an 864-783 (.525) record as an NBA head coach. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
A fitness nut, Ramsay competed in at least 20 triathlons during his life and worked out regularly into his 80s.
He was called ”Dr. Jack” after earning his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
Chris Tomasson contributed to this story.