The Sunday buzz column is below. First, a retrospective on the great Jack Ramsay, who died overnight:
Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who won an NBA title guiding the Portland Trail Blazers and later became a South Florida fan favorite for his colorful and cogent commentary on Heat telecasts, died Monday after a battle with cancer.
“The game has lost a giant today,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I've been with the Heat running the team....His legacy will live on through all the coaches and all the player's he's had relationships with over the years.”
In fact, his imprint on the Heat extended well beyond his announcing work.
Heat owner Micky Arison said when he bought the team in 1995, “we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to.... Over the years, I often turned to him for advice.”
Erik Spoelstra, speaking to reporters in Charlotte today (including colleague Joe Goodman), said the Heat has an inbounds play that Ramsay drew up for Spoelstra four years ago.
“He gave me a play that he used quite a bit during his championship year with the Blazers and it’s a play that I’ve used from time to time after timeouts and we’ve affectionately called it Ramsay,” said Spoelstra, who has known Ramsay since Spoelstra was 8 and attended all of his basketball camps. “And it was one of the biggest plays in Game 7 [of The Finals] last year coming out of a timeout. We executed to perfection and Wade got that curl for a layup" with 2:56 left that put the Heat ahead by five.
Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid, who teamed with Ramsay on Heat telecasts from 1992 through 2000, called him "a warm, wonderful man who made everyone around him feel great. As great a coach as he was, he was an even better person. He led an exceptional life.”
Ramsay, who has a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania and is affectionately known as Dr. Jack, spent just over 20 seasons as an NBA coach, finishing with an 864-783 record with Philadelphia, Buffalo, Portland and Indiana.
After guiding his alma mater, Saint Joseph’s, to 10 postseason appearances and a Final Four in 12 years as coach, Ramsay took his first NBA position in 1967, as general manager of the 76ers, who won the championship in his first year on the job.
He moved to the 76ers sidelines the next season and remained an NBA coach for two decades before resigning after an 0-7 start with the Indiana Pacers in 1988-89.
“Jack was a great man and I don’t use that term lightly," Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said. "His contributions to the game, as a coach, advisor, broadcaster will endure forever. I remember talking to Jack, either in Florida, or when he came to our training camp when Jim O’Brien [Ramsay's son-in-law] was the coach. I always learned something from him. This is a sad day for all of us in basketball and a sad day for anyone who knew Jack.”
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1992, Ramsay experienced his most NBA success in Portland. When he took the coaching job in 1976, the Trail Blazers had not made the playoffs or produced a winning record in their six-year history.
In his first season, he guided that team, led by Bill Walton, to their only NBA title, as the Blazers overcame a 2-0 series deficit in the Finals against Philadelphia to win the next four.
“Jack’s life is a beacon which guides us all,” Walton told USA Today in 2007. “He is our moral compass, our spiritual inspiration. He represents the conquest of substance over hype.”
As a coach, Ramsay was known for his colorful plaid jackets, his teaching skills and for preaching a brand of basketball that emphasized selflessness, sharing the ball, precise execution and defensive tenacity.
“Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals,” he once said.
That quote accompanies a mural of Ramsay that Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had constructed above his desk inside Portland’s arena.
When Ramsay left coaching, he ranked second on the all-time wins list, behind only Red Auerbach. He’s now 13th.
His popularity in South Florida resulted from his work as a Heat announcer, with fans often imitating his catch phrases and distinct vocal inflections.
Baskets by former Heat guard Voshon Lenard usually would be followed by an authoritative “Lenard!” When Tim Hardaway hit a three-pointer, Ramsay often would shout: "This away, that away, Hardaway!" Slam dunks were followed by "Slamma!"
Ramsay, who has been living in Naples, left the Heat after the 1999-2000 season and worked as ESPN Radio’s lead NBA analyst before leaving the position last May to receive medical treatment.
In addition to his TV and radio work, Ramsay wrote several books, including The Coach's Art and Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball.
Ramsay was always thin and muscular, a result of his commitment to fitness, which began during his service in the Navy when he was a member of an underwater demolition team training for the planned invasion of Japan in 1945.
Until recent years, he would swim a mile a day in the Gulf of Mexico near his Naples home. A triathlete until age 70, Ramsay’s daily routine, which he sustained into his 80s, included 100 crunches, 100 push-ups and running as much as four miles a day.
“He would do pushups and run in place in his hotel room even if he didn’t have time to go to the gym,” Reid said.
But Ramsay has battled various forms of cancer over the past 14 years --- on his left foot, his lungs, his prostate, bladder and his brain --- and, as Ramsay said two years ago, “melanomas all over my body.” He conceded, at that time, that he was not expected to live before the cancer went into remission.
But the cancer returned last spring, and he expressed frustration that it had begun to affect his active lifestyle in recent months.
Ramsay lost Jean, his wife of 60 years, to Alzeimer’s disease in 2010 and is survived by five children.
Ramsay’s son Chris, a director for ESPN.com, wrote on the web site today that his father cared for Jean for 10 years after she became ill. “She didn't know who he was most of the time, but he held her hand when she was scared and fed her and tried to ease her through the confusion for days and months and years. It was hard, but he did it."
Heat TV voice Eric Reid said: “One of things I love so much about him is his compassion and patience. What I saw traveling around with Jack was the old school basketball people revered Jack for his great and longtime career as a college and NBA coach. But he also had a whole new generation of fans that television created for him.
“He had done TV for a few years for the 76ers before coming to Miami, but his beautiful TV personality really blossomed in his time with the Heat. He was able to explain the game in such an intelligent but also a warm way. That warmth you felt off the TV screen was so real.”
Said Chris Ramsay, on ESPN.com: “My dad had drive, incredible determination and discipline. He had integrity, ambition and a big imagination. 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.”
### NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's statement on Ramsay: "Today, the NBA family mourns the loss of one of the true legends of our game, Dr. Jack Ramsay. 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. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends.”
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
There’s an element of mystery surrounding some of the state’s top NFL draft prospects because four have red flags unrelated to performance: UM offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (suspensions for marijuana use); UF cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (marijuana possession arrest and suspension); UF cornerback Marcus Roberson (suspension last November for team rules violation) and UF defensive tackle Dominique Easley (has had ACL tears in each knee).
Some buzz on the state prospects as we close in on the draft, May 8-10:
### Hurricanes: This UM draft class elicits as much frustration as optimism. One longtime NFC scout was bemoaning how disappointed he was that the impressive physical tools of Stephen Morris and Henderson didn’t translate into more consistent play.
The scout said there’s no question about Morris’ arm --– and there are no character questions --– but he’s not sure he can even be a No. 2 quarterback in the league.
“He’ll throw late to receivers, or on a crossing pattern, the ball will sail on him,” the scout said, aware that Morris understandably attributed some of last season’s mechanical issues to an Achilles’ injury. “I’m not sure he judges the speed of the receivers coming across the middle. He’s 50/50 on his throws; his misses are more high than low. The accuracy and vision are concerns.”
Nolan Nawrocki --- in his outstanding NFL Draft preview book (Triumph Books) --- said Morris is a fifth- or sixth-rounder who “struggles to handle pressure and presses to create plays. Eyes drop to the rush very quickly and vacates the pocket prematurely. Makes too many head-scratching decisions and makes his receivers consistently work for the ball. Has moldable talent for a backup role and enough raw tools to pique the interest of a patient quarterbacks coach.”
Beyond questions about Henderson’s character and marijuana use at UM, one scout said “he couldn’t draw up formations” when he met with him at the NFL Combine.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Henderson has high bust potential. “No consistency with this kid at all,” Mayock said. “From a talent perspective, he's a first- or second-round talent. But he’s probably a fourth-round kid just because you don't know what you're getting. If you can take Brandon Linder’s toughness and tenacity and place it in Seantrel Henderson’s body, you’ll have a first-round pick.”
NFL.com’s Nawrocki said Henderson “already has been removed from many draft boards” but still could go in the second or third round.
Scouts like Linder as a late-round pick. “He’s smart enough to be a guard/center swing guy, and a lot of guys can’t do that,” the scout said. “He was very impressive at his Pro Day.” Said Draftinsider.com’s Tony Pauline: “Miami coaches have been raving about Linder's character and his grade is rising.”…
One scout said he was impressed that Allen Hurns’ yards per catch jumped dramatically from 11.2 as a junior to 18.7 as a senior. “Maybe he’s a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver,” the scout said. “I would consider him in the fifth, sixth round.”
Mayock said Hurns’ issue “is that he's got average size and speed. I don't see him separating in man‑to‑man press coverage very easily. He's not overly big or fast. So how does he fit in? He's got to be crafty; he's got to run great routes.”…
The NFC scout said Pat O’Donnell, one of the top five punter prospects, “is better than some of the punters in the league now. What a weapon.”
That scout said he wasn’t impressed with any of UM’s seven draft-eligible defensive ends and linebackers. “Not like it used to be at Miami at those positions,” he said…. Tight end Asante Cleveland, defensive end David Gilbert (the Dolphins had him break down film), offensive lineman Jared Wheeler and defensive linemen Shayon Green, Luther Robinson and Curtis Porter should get a look in an NFL camp. So might UM basketball player Erik Swoope, who has auditioned for the Dolphins and three other teams as a potential tight end.
### Gators: The question is how high either of UF's top cornerback prospects will go considering their off-field issues and the fact they didn’t run well in workouts, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper.
Purifoy “is one of the most naturally talented defensive backs in this draft,” according to ESPN’s Todd McShay. But his stock could take a hit after a recent report that he was caught with marijuana and bath salts in March but wasn’t charged because he agreed to be an informant.
Roberson “can get a little lackadaisical,” Kiper said. “But it can also look easy for him out there because he has good instincts and a sense of where routes are going. He needs to be more physical against the run and grab a little less in coverage.”
Kiper sees Roberson going in the third round, Purifoy in the third or fourth.
Nawrocki said Roberson could “develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 corner if he regains his sophomore form. However, he lacks desirable instincts and tackling ability.”
Easley sustained his second ACL tear last season and “went from a top 25 pick to a third or fourth round pick,” Mayock said. Easley said he’s 80 percent recovered and will be ready for minicamps.
Potential mid-round Gators: cornerback Jaylen Watkins, linebacker Ronald Powell, receiver/tight end Trey Burton, guard/center Jonatthan Harrison and possibly guard Jon Halapio,who privately auditioned for the Dolphins.
### Seminoles: Two potential first-rounders in receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and a possible second-rounder in cornerback LeMarcus Joyner.
Kiper has Benjamin going 22nd “and he could be a steal, given his size, speed, catch radius and ability to beat defenders before the catch and run away from them.” But McShay said: “He needs to learn how to run better routes, and I've seen him drop too many passes when watching him on tape.”
Kiper has Jernigan falling to 36th: “If he had better reaction time, he would go higher. He's not a blow-by rusher, but has the strength and quick feet to eat up a running play before it goes anywhere.”
McShay has Joyner going 51st and said that even though he’s only 5-8, “he plays bigger than his size. Quick, fast, instinctive.” But Mayock said: “I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or a nickel or both.”
Potential FSU mid-rounders: running back Devonta Freeman (Mayock has him in the third round) and safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and center Brian Stork. One scout expressed concern about Jones’ instincts. Running back James Wilder Jr. could go late, after a recent arrest for an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license.
### Random stuff: Draft analysts expect the first state player drafted will be UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s eighth in Kiper’s mock… UCF running back Storm Johnson, a former UM player, “has good hands but is not tough,” an NFC scout said. “He cringes when he’s asked to block. Maybe a fourth-rounder.” The Dolphins called him… FIU’s best prospects should be invited to a minicamp if they go undrafted: defensive end Gregory Hickman and defensive tackle Isame Facione.
### The Dolphins’ search for offensive linemen is so all-encompassing that it has even extended to a Canadian medical school student and two identical twins. UCF starting guards and twins Justin and Jordan McCray, who are both 6-3 and 310 pounds, each auditioned at Dolphins headquarters (together, naturally). Bortles said he can tell them apart only because Justin has a small freckle on his face.
The Dolphins also summoned Canada-based McGill University tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to team headquarters. A potential fourth-round pick, Duvernay wants to become a sports doctor and practiced only once a week during the season because of classes and a pediatric rotation. "He has a lot of talent but he's got to get stronger," Kiper said. "Third or fourth round pick."
### After Saturday, LeBron James has 21 career playoff games with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists --- most in NBA history. That broke a record he had shared with Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.
### Heat guard Norris Cole said he is “spoiled” because he has never lost a playoff series (he’s 8-0) and “I can’t imagine what it would be like” to lose one. The good folks at Elias Sports Bureau tell us that only one other player in NBA history has never lost a playoff series he has appeared in, minimum eight series: former journeyman guard Randy Brown, who was 12-0 because he was on the Bulls’ second three-peat (1996-98).... Some perfectly acceptable Heat/Bobcats fraternizing last week: Charlotte Bobcats assistant Patrick Ewing and Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, former Georgetown greats and buddies, enjoying a late-night dinner at Prime 112.
### Please see the last post for notes, reaction and tidbits from the Heat's Game 3 win Saturday night, including a prominent analyst who says the Heat won't win the title this season.
### Though Marlins and former Blue Jays prospects Jake Marisnick (.184 batting average), right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (3.77 ERA) and lefty Justin Nicolino (4.35 ERA) had slow starts in the minors this month, the blockbuster 2012 Marlins/Blue Jays trade looks pretty good from a Marlins perspective considering Josh Johnson (now with San Diego) is 2-8 (6.20 ERA) since the trade and is now out for the year after elbow surgery; often-injured Jose Reyes has played in only about half of Toronto’s games since the trade; Henderson Alvarez has pitched generally well for Miami; and Derek Dietrich (obtained when the Marlins flipped Yunel Escobar to Tampa Bay) and Adeiny Hechavarria have improved offensively.
Mark Buehrle is 16-10 for Toronto since the trade, but his contract would have been an albatross for the Marlins, who have found quality cheaper starting pitching elsewhere.
### Three-star Georgia based defensive tackle Quentez Johnson is UM's latest Class of 2015 oral commitment. He had 25 offers, including from FSU, LSU, Oregon and Tennessee. Rivals.com ranks him the 35th-best defensive tackle in the 2015 class.
### Please check out my story posted earlier today on The Herald's main home page, offering a comprehensive look at the chances of David Beckham's proposed MLS team succeeding in our market.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz