Winter HOF Nod Long Overdue

by: Mark Janssen, K-State Official Sports Report

With Ernie "Mr. K-State" Barrett calling it "long overdue," former Kansas State basketball coach Tex Winter will be one of eight individuals inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this fall.

"I'm so pleased and thankful that he's being inducted while he's still alive," said Barrett of the 87-year-old Winter, who is in a retirement home in Oregon. "No one is more deserving than Tex to enter a Hall of Fame."   

K-State coach Frank Martin echoed Barrett's comments by saying, "It's about time. I can't think of a more deserving person to be in the Hall of Fame than him. He's impacted basketball more than most."

Winter will be joined in the 2010 Class by players Christian Laettner (Duke), David Thompson (North Carolina State), Jerry West (West Virginia), Sidney Wicks (UCLA, plus fellow coach Davey Whitney (Alcorn State) and contributors Wayne Duke and Tom Jernstedt.

Already a member of the state of Kansas Hall of Fame and the Kansas State Hall of Fame, Winter is the first individual with K-State ties to enter the Collegiate Baksetball Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremonies will be held on Sunday, Nov. 21, at the College Basketball Experience and the historic midland Theatre in Kansas City.

Along with K-State, Winter had head coaching stops at Marquette, Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State where he won a collective 454 games. Of those, 262 came as head coach of the Wildcats. Winter also served as coach of the NBA Houston Rockets for two seasons.

"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 when Winter was an assistant to Jack Gardner.

At a salary of $3,000, Winter first came to K-State as an assistant to Jack Gardner in 1947-48 when the Wildcats made a jump from 14-10 the year before, to 22-6.

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 seasons, 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, fans were not enchanted with Winter as there were signs of "Spring is here, Winter must go!" Winter would stay, 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.

"What separated Tex from other coaches was the way he explained himself," said Wildcat all-American Bob Boozer. "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."

Dressed in his lucky brown suit, Winter's success came via the offense he invented and through a mastery of fundamentals within the concept of team play.

"From a pure logistics standpoint, the 'Triangle Offense' was based on spacing ... players 15 feet apart, and the fact that everyone was involved," said Jack Parr, a two-time all-American for Winter in 1956-1958. "It was never geared to one player, and it was an offense that always had options with the defense determining which option you went to."

The offense was a success at the collegiate level, and the NBA where Winter teamed with head coach Phil Jackson to win 10 NBA 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."

Parr, who said Winter's style was "always supporting an never berating," added that execution was 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 Kansas 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."

Jordan, himself, said of how Winter had 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."     

Laughing, Parr said, "He's still coaching me. The last time I was with Tex he told me, 'You know, those shoes you're wearing don't become you.' So, I went out and bought some shoes."