By Mark Janssen
As "Mr. K-State" Ernie Barrett says, "No one is more deserving than Tex Winter to enter a Hall of Fame."
Already a member of the state of Kansas Hall of Fame, and the Kansas State Hall of Fame, tonight at Kansas City's Midland Theater, the former Wildcat basketball coach will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
"Tex Winter is one of the guys that started the tremendous history that we have here at Kansas State with his influence on all of our great teams," said K-State coach Frank Martin. "We strive every day to make him proud of this program because he is a part of the foundation that started it all."
K-State athletics director John Currie added, "We have tremendous tradition and history here at K-State and coach Winter's innovative and hall of fame career has had a lasting impact on Kansas State University and the game of basketball."
Winter arrived on the K-State campus in the late-1940s as an assistant to Jack Gardner. In accepting the position, he became the first paid assistant in the program's history at a whopping salary of $3,000.
"What separated Tex from other great coaches was his attitude toward the game, and how it truly was a team game," said Barrett, an all-American for the Wildcats in 1951.
Perhaps the greatest of the Winter-coached KSU players was all-American Bob Boozer, who played for the 'Cats from 1956-58.
Of his coach, Boozer said, "What separated Tex was the way he explained himself. He was a strategic coach with no ranting and raving, but just teaching. He had the offense he invented and the horses to run it. He deserves to be right there with Phog Allen, Bobby Knight, and any other great coach of the game."
In 1951, Winter left K-State to become the head basketball coach at Marquette at the age of 28, making him the youngest head coach of a Division I program in NCAA history. After two years, he would return to K-State for the 1953-54 season as the head coach of the Wildcats.
Winning only 14 and 11 games in his first two KSU seasons, fans were not enchanted with Winter as there were signs of "Spring is here, Winter must go!" Winter would survive the storm, and over the next 13-year period from 1955-56 through 1967-68, K-State would win eight Big 7/8 titles, play in six NCAA Tournaments, and reach two Final Fours in 1958 and 1964.
Winter won using a "Triangle Offense" that if he didn't invent, he certainly refined.
Calling Winter "always supporting and never berating," all-American Jack Parr said of the offense, "From a pure logistics standpoint, the 'Triangle Offense' was based on spacing ... players 15 feet apart, and the fact that everyone was involved. It was never geared to one player."
"I might have had a good night, but I would never hear anything from Tex," reflected Parr, a 20-point per game scorer. "He wasn't into individual accomplishments ... it was all about how the team was doing."
That was true at Kansas State, and later true as an assistant in the NBA where he earned 10 championship rings with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Of Michael Jordan, Winter once said, "I'm not overly impressed with Michael Jordan. Impressed, but not overly impressed. There are still parts of his game that need work ... fundamentals."
With Hall of Famer Bob Knight at Bramlage Coliseum on Tuesday when K-State honored Winter, the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach said, "Tex really, really likes the game of basketball. I appreciated that from the time I first knew him until today. And then on top of that, Tex was an outstanding basketball coach.''
Caring for his father in the first months after his stroke two years ago, Winter demonstrated little communicative skills, or desire to communicate. Finally, Chris asked his father to diagram a play on a piece of paper.
"Out of nowhere, there it was ... an offensive play drawn perfectly, completely understandable and legible enough for players to run it," said Winter's son. "I was really surprised ... but then I wasn't surprised at all."
Another son, Russ, said of his father, "It may not always seem like it on the outside, but there's still a coach in there. He's always been a coach. He doesn't know how to do anything else."