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Winter's 'Triangle Magic' - PART I

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K-State's Ernie Barrett and Tex Winter are recognized before the game against Oklahoma as part of the Legends Weekend at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas on January 19, 2013. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)

Editor's Note: With former Kansas State basketball coach Tex Winter celebrating his 92nd birthday last week, K-State Sports Extra will highlight the legendary Hall of Fame coach with a two-part feature beginning today and concluding Thursday.

March 4, 2014
By Mark Janssen

Fred "Tex" Winter's resume is littered with fancy numbers:
- 262 Kansas State wins
- 454 overall collegiate wins at K-State, Marquette, Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State
- 10 NBA championship rings as an assistant coach to Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers

And as of last week, one can add '92' to that list as that's the birthday that the legendary Wildcat coach celebrated at his Manhattan home surrounded by family members, plus former Wildcat player Larry Weigel, who brought the coach an ice cream cake.

So just what was it that separated Winter from all of the other coaching greats? That's not only in the collegiate ranks, but also in the NBA.

Former Kansas State All-American Ernie Barrett simply said, "It was his attitude toward the game, and how it truly was a team game."

"What separated Tex from other coaches was the way he explained himself," said Wildcat All-American Bob Boozer prior to his death. "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."

It was Jack Gardner who hired Winter as an assistant in 1947 because he had played at USC under Sam Barry, who understood the "center opposite" offense, which was later revised, by Winter, into the "Triple Post" or "Triangle" offense.

It's an offense based on 15-foot spacing, crisp movement of the ball within a five-man concept, an offense that countered the defense and one that utilized the talents of each player.

As Barrett recalled of the 1950-51 season, "We practiced it, revised it, and four years later we used it when we played Kentucky for the National Championship."

In 1951, Winter left K-State and his $3,000 contract as an assistant to Gardner 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.

After seasons of just 14 and 11 victories, K-State fans were not enchanted with Winter as there were signs of, "Spring is here, Winter must go!"

Winter would weather the storm, and over the next 13-year period from 1955-56 through 1967-68, K-State would win eight Big Seven/Eight titles, play in six NCAA Tournaments and reach Final Fours in 1958 and 1964.

"I remember sending my book ("The Triple Post Offense") to all the other Big 7 coaches and they still couldn't stop the offense," reflected Winter. "That was a test that said the offense was very sound. The offense was never what you did, but how you executed it. It's a very sound offense, yet one that is very adjustable and flexible."

The offense was not only a success at the men's collegiate level but also adjustable to the degree that it was borrowed by Pat Summit to win a women's title at Tennessee. And once in the NBA, Winter teamed with head coach Phil Jackson to win 10 World Championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

Of Winter's skills, Jackson said, "He had the best build-up drills for incorporating the simplest skill into the most sophisticated offense in basketball. The 'Triangle Offense' wouldn't have mattered if Tex hadn't used his skill as a practice coach to build in the drills necessary to execute the offense."

Two-time All-American Jack Parr, who said Winter's style was "always supporting and never berating," added that the key was execution as a team, and not as an individual.

"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."

And it didn't matter whether that team was in K-State purple, Chicago Bulls red or Los Angeles Lakers gold.

In Winter's book, "Trial By Basketball," Jackson said of Winter's team concepts, "The number of times he asked me to remove Michael Jordan from the game because he was hurting the ability of the team to play ball together is incalculable."

And of 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."

And here's Jordan, himself, on how Winter touched his game as a coach: "Tex Winter was the most important because he probably criticized my game more than anybody. He was a driving force."

Winter continued that mode of coaching with the Lakers and their star player Kobe Bryant.

"Kobe once told me that he would spend hours and hours and hours with Tex watching tape to figure out ways to make his game better," Parr said.

Parr also credits Winter for his success in the business world with Jack Parr Associates, an internationally recognized human resources development firm specializing in customer service training and management development.

"It was through Tex that I first really understood the importance of teamwork," said Parr. "He's had an impact on my business in the way I teach teamwork to people. My foundation comes from Tex Winter. I love him like a dad."

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.