TUALATIN, Ore. — While the Portland Trail Blazers took Monday as an opportunity to rest before heading to Houston for Game 5 of the first round Western Conference playoff series, there was a more somber matter at hand.
The news of legendary championship coach Jack Ramsay’s passing partly overshadowed the Blazers thrilling overtime win on Sunday to take 3-1 series lead.
“He is Rip City. The definition of a Trail Blazer,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, the longest tenured player on the team and the NBA’s leading scorer in the playoffs. “He has a title here. Anytime I was around him or talked to him, he was a really nice guy. He loved the game.”
“It’s tough news to hear after such an exciting time and moment for Portland but he will be missed,” Wesley Matthews said. “What he did for the NBA, what he did for basketball, especially what he did for Portland. His legacy is always going to live on.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts hasn’t been shy in his admiration for Ramsay and he even donned a plaid 70’s-style Blazer on Ramsay’s birthday on Feb. 21.
For Stotts it was a mix of sadness and celebration for a man that meant so much to the franchise.
“Obviously it’s a very sad day for the Ramsay family and the basketball community,” he said. “But also it gives us a chance to celebrate the person. He was an amazing coach, the more you read about him after his passing, you realize how much he was beloved and respected and revered in the basketball community.”
Stotts added: “It’s amazing. He had a terrific life that should be celebrated.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement: “Today, the NBA family mourns the loss of one of the true legends of our game. From his coaching tenure to his broadcast work, Dr. Jack left an indelible mark on every facet of our game and on every person he came in contact with, including me.”
The fundamentals of teamwork were a tenant of Ramsay-coached teams as much as their up and down style.
Stotts said that he had heard through the Ramsay family that the coach enjoyed watching the 2013-14 Blazers play.
Damian Lillard has only been with the Blazers for two years but he says he understands what the legendary coach meant to Portland.
“It’s one championship and he was the guy to bring it here so obviously him passing away is a tough day for Rip City,” Lillard said. “Hopefully I can be part of the team that can bring that back here.”
Added Matthews: “He’s a staple here. You can’t think of Portland without Dr. Jack. We just try to continue the legacy that he built.”
The focus then returned to Houston, the X’s and O’s and the potential of closing out the series.
Stotts was first to speak to the media and promptly returned to his office, back to work.
The players hadn’t seen the film yet, but they didn’t appear to be in a rush just yet either.
However, Lillard did key on something the Blazers must have, something that would surely make the ultra-competitive Ramsay proud of hear from such a young player.
“We got to show some killer instinct,” he said. “When you have a team down 3-1 with an opportunity to finish the series and wrap it up, you want to take advantage of that.
“I think everybody here is on the same page.”