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Younger Ramsay extends basketball tradition

Chris Ramsay was a standout basketball player for DeSales High School in Lockport in the mid-1970s. When he wasn't playing the sport, he was usually watching it, attending nearly every home game of the NBA's Buffalo Braves.

He didn't have much trouble getting tickets, either. Chris' father is Dr. Jack Ramsay, who was head coach of the the Braves from 1972 to 1976.

Some 35 years later, father and son are still connected through basketball. Dr. Jack, of course, is an NBA analyst on ESPN Radio. The younger Ramsay also works for the Worldwide Leader. Chris Ramsay is Senior Director of Editorial for ESPN.com. He is primarily responsible for the website's NBA, golf and NASCAR content.

The month of May is a moveable feast for NBA fans, of course, with the playoffs in full swing. Basketball is his passion, one he gets to indulge as part of his job. Anyone can swap opinions about the sport, but when Chris wants to talk basketball he can pick up the phone and call a legendary coach.

Ramsay talks with his dad at least a couple of times a week, he said.

"He always calls me after his games on ESPN Radio, and he'll ask, 'How did I do?'

"I give him a critique on his performance. He says, 'You're the only one who tells me the truth.'

"Then we get in to talking about the games, the teams, the players and the strategy. It's nice to have a direct line to a Hall of Famer."

Dr. Jack, who is 87, has been with ESPN for about 25 years. He was in Los Angeles on Saturday covering the Lakers' Game Four against Oklahoma City.

"When we get together at the All-Star Game, or the NBA Finals, that's one of the best parts of my job," Chris Ramsay said.

"We've collaborated on different things for the [ESPN.com] website. He's my hero.

"He was a Division I athlete, was in the Navy, earned a Ph.D, coached in Division I and went to the Final Four. He was an NBA champion and coached around the world; he's just an ambassador for the game."

Jack Ramsay's final year coaching the Braves was 1976, the same year Chris graduated from DeSales. He went off to college, while his dad went off to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers, led by Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas (who came to Portland from the defunct ABA) won the NBA championship in Ramsay's first season.

Chris Ramsay ended up at Rollins College in Florida. He worked at the college radio station, then took a series of jobs as a television producer, in Orlando, Portland and Louisville, among other places. He was primarily a news producer, which is exactly the background ESPN was looking for when it launched ESPNews in 1997. Ramsay has been a coordinating producer for ESPNews, for "SportsCenter," and has held various jobs with the company's website.

He certainly has no complaints about basketball consuming much of his day when he's at his office in Bristol, Conn.

Ramsay said he's been surprised how much trouble the Indiana Pacers have given the Miami Heat in the playoffs, as well as by how quickly the Philadelphia 76ers have come together.

There's a historical link to the Los Angeles Clippers, too. The Clippers franchise, as every school child knows, is formerly the San Diego Clippers, and before that the Buffalo Braves. Ramsay's nine playoff wins as coach of the Braves make him the winningest playoff coach in the history of that franchise.

"Bob McAdoo is still my all-time favorite player," Chris Ramsay said. "He was a great scorer, and the MVP in 1975. Those teams were very exciting, with McAdoo, Randy Smith, Gar Heard, Ernie DiGregorio, Jack Marin. I have a lot of fond memories of going to the Aud and watching those teams play.

In a world of poetic justice, Ramsay would still be carrying the torch by rooting for the Clippers. But there is another playoff team that he compares to the old Braves.

"The Braves team was kind of like the [Oklahoma City] Thunder is today," he said. "McAdoo played a lot like Kevin Durant, as a volume scorer and a pure shooter who can score inside and out. Randy Smith was like Russell Westbrook, and Gar Heard had a beard, like James Harden.

"I just think I have an affinity for the Thunder because they play sort of like the Braves did."

email: gconnors@buffnews.com