City of Portland, Blazers Honor Late Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay With Street Name Change
The Portland Trail Blazers, both on the court and in the way they talk about the team, have made more of an effort in past years to connect their current teams to the franchise’s rich history.
On Friday afternoon prior to their 121-74 preseason win against Maccabi Haifa, they had a ceremony naming the street formerly known as “North Winning Way” to “North Ramsay Way,” which included Ramsay’s children, Chris and Caroline, as well as Ramsay’s old friend and legendary Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonley, who was the MC for the event.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts and general manager Neil Olshey gave glowing speeches about how Ramsay had influenced them and their colleagues in basketball. City Commisioner Steve Novick told of how the process of renaming the street, which normally takes five years, was fast-tracked. And he, too, told stories of how the Blazers teams of the 70’s had changed him.
Caroline Ramsay, who told stories of riding in cars and reading box scores by street light with her father, guessed that the moment would have been too much for her father. But, she agrees that it makes sense for their to be a street named after her father in a city and place he loved so much.
“My father would have said, ‘This is too much. What, they’re naming a street for me? That’s ridiculous!’ But if he had been here, he would be beaming with pride and joy because he loved Portland so much, loved it from the minute he arrived,” she said. “He loved the fresh air, the fresh fish, the Oregon pinot noir. He tormented waiters for years after leaving Portland asking everywhere he went ‘Well, do you have Oregon pinot noir?’
Schonley began the event with an anecdote about Ramsay’s 70th birthday, a night when he left his big birthday cake in the company of a cab driver in Houston. So, it goes without saying Ramsay never wanted to celebrate things about himself much.
Caroline articulated the enthusiasm that Dr. Jack had, for even the simplest of things.
“He also would point out Mount Hood on a clear day, even if he had a carload of people and was careening of the highway to point it out as he went along,” she said. “My father was a force of nature. He was a very fast driver. I’m glad that he won his championship in 1977 in Portland because he had such an innate connection to this city and the people here. He loved the outdoorsy nature, the optimism of Portland, the progressive attitudes. It resonated with him and made him feel at home from the very, very beginning.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts has always admired Ramsay and has had a quote from him on his desk for some time now that speaks to him.
“It says ‘Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals.’ And to me, for Coach Ramsay, he was all about team,”
Stotts and general manager Neil Olshey weren’t the only people currently involved with the team’s on-court operation that made an appearance. So did All-Star Damian Lillard and Stotts wanted to commend him during his speech.
“Before I go any further, one person I would like to acknowledge — and he didn’t have to be here today — is Damian Lillard is here. Damian, as most of you know, the minute he came into the NBA everybody talked about how mature he was. I think the fact that he came out here on his own just because of the history with Dr. Ramsay and what he meant to the franchise, obviously what Damian means to the franchise. I certainly want to acknowledge Damian for being here.”
Bobby Gross, who played for Ramsay, was almost brought tears telling stories about him. But, he did provide another great anecdote to a day full of them. It was after a game against Golden State and Ramsay decided to walk to the hotel from the game.
” We’re sitting on the bus and usually Jack is one of the first ones on the bus and he didn’t show up, didn’t show up. Finally someone got on and said, ‘Well, he’s going to walk back.’ He liked to walk and think, I think, because I saw him many times walking around the block at a hotel with his head down thinking,” Gross said.
“It was later that evening, I was in the lobby with a couple of guys, we were going to get something to eat afterwards. He came walking in and his trousers were ripped. And I’m wondering what happened to him. Did he get mugged or what happened? He said, ‘Nah, I had to jump the fence’ and he crossed the freeway, a six-lane freeway with a barrier in the middle to get to the other side of the freeway. He didn’t know how to get down the road.”
And now, the road that surrounds the Memorial Coliseum, where 12,666 would religiously watch his teams play, is named after a man who enjoyed a walk down many.
And even Novick took time to talk about what the Blazers meant to him growing up after moving to Oregon at 10 years old. He said that listening to Blazers games made him feel like an Oregonian. Additionally, he probably delivered the line of the ceremony regarding what the street means to Portland.
“There are moments that stay with you for a lifetime and in a corner in my mind it will always be 1977. And the score will always be 109-107. And the Blazers will always be champions of the world. And with this street renaming that will be true of this street in Portland. That on Ramsay Way, it will always be 1977. It will always be 109-106 and the Blazers will always be champions of the World.”
The honoring of Ramsay did not end after the ceremony with every member of the Blazers staff wearing the same plaid “Dr. Jack” patches they wore in last year’s playoffs, with Lillard also wearing one on his jacket he brought to the game.