I was in the Raleigh, NC airport on Monday morning when the sad news of Dr. Jack Ramsay’s passing reached my smartphone. I don’t need to tell you that Dr. Jack was a Philadelphia basketball icon with a superior basketball mind that influenced people in the game as far away as Zimbabwe.
As a St. Joe’s alum (Yeah, I refuse to spell it the new way.), a dedicated 76er supporter and the founder of Philadunkia.com, Dr. Jack has always held a special place in my hoops heart. But I also had the pleasure of working with Coach Ramsay on several occasions over my career in sports journalism and I own a tremendous respect for his talents, basketball IQ, work ethic and professionalism.
In honor of his passing I’d like to share a quick story with you that will give you some insight into this great man off the court.
Back in 2006-2007 I had the pleasure of working as the coordinating producer and a writer on a documentary project titled, “The Palestra: Cathedral of Basketball”. It was a low budget film that gave tribute to the “hallowed halls of The Palestra and to show not only Philadelphia, but the entire country, why this gym truly is the Mecca of College Hoops”. The documentary picked up a couple of awards, aired nationally on ESPN U and then later regionally on Comcast SportsNet.
Anyways…for the film we interviewed every legendary name in the history of Philadelphia basketball and anyone with a deep knowledge of the Palestra itself. You can read the impressive cast list for yourself here. Of course one of the subjects we interviewed for the film was the great Dr. Jack Ramsay.
My crew and I traveled to his beach house in Longport, NJ where we filmed his interview right in his living room. As you would expect, Dr. Jack was the best during his interview. He owned a fantastic recall of events, could tell a great story and the delivery of his answers kept the viewers engaged.
Still, what I remember most from that day was what happened after the cameras stopped rolling. As the crew and I packed up our things, Dr. Jack stood and talked hoops with us. With the sound of waves crashing on the beach providing background ambiance, Coach Ramsay, two of my colleagues and I discussed every aspect of basketball known to man.
We covered the 76ers at length, who were a mess (35-47) under Mo Cheeks at the time, as well as the NBA in general. Obviously we talked about the St. Joe’s Hawks. Dr. Jack also entertained us with a few stories from his 76er days and one unprintable tale from the Buffalo Braves era. We stood and talked with this basketball legend for a solid hour.
Dr. Jack didn’t have to speak with us after the cameras stopped rolling. He’d just spent nearly two hours in the interview chair and gave us some great sound bites. He didn’t owe us a thing. Dr. Jack could easily have gone about his day and left us to pack our gear and ship out. I would have completely understood had he done just that. After all, he was a busy man with a resume much longer than our combined industry accomplishments and we had gotten what we needed (and than some).
But the fact is he did take the time to stand and chat with us about the greatest game in the world. When I look back on The Palestra: Cathedral of Basketball documentary, that day in Longport, NJ is what I remember the fondest.
Yes, Dr. Jack Ramsay was one of the foremost basketball minds to walk this earth. However, I will always think of him as more than just an iconic teacher of the game.
To me Dr. Jack was a “great guy” and they are a rare breed in this business.
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