The biggest backhanded compliment of all time?
How about being told, “You’re the winningest postseason coach in franchise history . . . of the Los Angeles Clippers.”
After receiving that “compliment,” Dr. Jack Ramsay chuckled, then calmly and matter-of-factly said, “Well, they haven’t had coaches stay there very long — and they haven’t been very good.”
That’s the style of ESPN Radio’s NBA analyst and Basketball Hall Of Famer, who accumulated nine playoff wins with the fledgling Buffalo Braves.
After joining the NBA in 1970, the Braves would spend eight seasons in Western New York before becoming the San Diego and then the Los Angeles Clippers. The franchise’s second-winningest playoff coach is Mike Dunleavy with seven victories, followed by Larry Brown and current Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro (four each).
Del Negro’s Clippers are competing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. Game 2 in San Antonio on Thursday will air on ESPN (9:30 ET), and Game 3 from Los Angeles will be telecast by ABC on Saturday (3:30 ET).
In 1972, Ramsay became Buffalo’s third coach in three years. After losing 61 games that first season, Ramsay led the Braves to their only playoff appearances the next three seasons.
“We had a good team in those days,” Ramsay, 87, said from Naples, Fla. Monday after his daily swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Today the Clippers have [Blake] Griffin and [Chris] Paul. But we had Bob McAdoo, who led the league in scoring for three years, Ernie DiGregorio, who could really pass and led the league in assists and free-throw percentage, and Randy Smith, who could fly.”
After his success in Buffalo, Ramsay paced the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title.
Ramsay and his ESPN Radio play-by-play partner Jim Durham will be in Los Angeles Friday and Saturday nights, broadcasting Games 3 and 4 of the Lakers-Oklahoma City Western Conference semifinals (9:30 ET). It’s a happy coincidence that he’ll be in Los Angeles to see the Clippers even as he’s covering the Lakers’ series.
“It’s going to be a tough road for him,” Ramsay said of Del Negro’s chances of catching his franchise coaching record this season.
“They’ve got the Spurs next, and they may be the best team in the league. San Antonio is deep, it has a great point guard in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and good, young guys playing well together at both ends of the floor.”
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