No matter what we say about Jack Ramsay today, it will seem inadequate. It won't be enough.
He led such a great life. He did so many great things. He was a great man, a giver.
In his public life, he was famous, a Hall of Famer, a world champion. He had colorful friends named Cotton and Hubie and Halberstam and Talese. He traveled the world teaching, coaching and broadcasting. He brought Wilt Chamberlain home for dinner.
He was a basketball genius, a true innovator. He taught a team game. A pure form of basketball. Sharing and giving. With the right personnel, it was unbeatable. He pushed the very best to be even better: Billy Cunningham, Bob McAdoo, Bill Walton and Reggie Miller all learned from him how to elevate their games. Later, you'd see him talking with Tim Duncan, Kobe, KG and D-Wade. He was telling them how to be better players and teammates. They all listened, and they all got better.
My dad had drive, incredible determination and discipline. He was raised by his mom and three older sisters. He turned himself into a local basketball star and earned a scholarship to St. Joe's.
He entered the Navy as soon as he was old enough and became a frogman during World War II. He trained for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended before he would see any action. When he was 21, the Navy had made him captain of a supply ship that patrolled the Pacific Ocean around the Marshall Islands. Twenty-one and a captain in the U.S. Navy.
He wrote a thesis to earn his Ph.D. and coached a team in the Final Four with five kids under the age of 12 in the house.
He rode his bike halfway across America in a week. He taught himself how to surf and became pretty good at it. He was a world-class triathlete at age 70. One summer he worked on his golf game, then went out and won the men's championship at the club.
His private life was normal and not normal. He did things a dad and husband would do. He played ball with us in the driveway. He cut the grass. He took us all out for ice cream on summer nights. He and my mom would play cards with the neighbors. He took us to church on Sundays.
He and I grew very close. After college, I followed him to Portland and Indiana. We spent a lot of time together at the Jersey Shore and in Florida. He was the best friend. We worked together for ESPN at the All-Star Game and every Father's Day at the NBA Finals. He used to say I was his boss, but in truth, I was learning from him. Learning how to be a man in this world. Learning everything.
As he got older, the not-normal stuff began to happen. He started to get sick. Brain tumors, lung tumors, marrow syndrome, skin cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, heart ailments, partial blindness, thrombosis, near-deadly spider bites, gout and shingles. He had hernia surgery. He had cysts removed from his eyelids. He had the bottom of his foot cut off, his lymph nodes stripped out. You probably didn't know about those battles. He fought them in private.