Jack Ramsay at his introductory press conference for Pacers
Jack Ramsay at his introductory press conference to be the head coach of the Pacers.
Frank McGrath

Jack Ramsay Was a Great Coach, Great Person

by David Benner | @PacersDMB

April 28, 2014

When I was a writer for The Indianapolis Star and the Pacers were my beat for eight years, Jack Ramsay was one of the coaches I covered. Hired by Donnie Walsh, his name brought instant credibility to the franchise that was struggling at the time. In his first year (1986-87), the Pacers went 41-41 and made their first NBA Playoffs under the ownership of Melvin and Herb Simon. Although the Pacers lost, 3-1, to the Atlanta Hawks, the taste of that small success left everyone wanting more.

But the best memory of Jack came at the lowest point. After going 38-44 in 1987-88, the Pacers got off to an 0-7 start in 1988-89. The Pacers were in Phoenix and after losing to the Suns, 123-104, Donnie met with Jack and they came to the mutual agreement that he resign as coach. The next morning, Donnie called me with the news. My first call was to Jack, who said he would meet with myself and Conrad Brunner, beat writer for The Indianapolis News. We went to his room and in one of the more difficult times a coach can face, losing your job, he patiently answered our questions, offered no regrets and handled the entire situation with dignity and class.

Photo Gallery: Jack Ramsay as Coach of Pacers »

Related: Simon, Bird, Walsh on Ramsay »

Conrad and I walked out of the room with further proof this man was one of a kind. While the team flew to Los Angeles, Jack flew back to Indianapolis and again, took the time to meet with Indianapolis media at the airport.

My relationship with Jack continued in this position as Director of Basketball Media Relations. After retiring from coaching, he became an analyst – not surprisingly, a good one – for the NBA on ESPN Radio. Our paths crossed frequently and Jack was as diligent in his preparation for a game as a broadcaster as he was a coach. The first time he came to me to pick my brain, I asked him why. He smiled and said jokingly, “I hope that maybe you learned something from me when I was a coach that can help me now.”

Well, what I learned from Jack is no matter how adverse the situation, you try to handle it with dignity and class. Jack Ramsay is a Hall of Famer, he was a great coach who has an NBA Championship ring from when he coached the Portland Trail Blazers. But as good as his basketball resume is, it pales in comparison to his resume as a person.

We will all miss Jack Ramsay.