Tex Winter Elected to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
On Monday morning, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2011 inductees, including former Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter.
Winter, who served as an assistant and consultant for the Lakers at the tail end of his remarkable basketball career, is considered one of the best and brightest hoops minds since the game was invented by Phil Jackson and their 18 combined championships. Jackson credits Winter for teaching him the renowned triangle offense (called “Triple Post” back in the day) and for having a immeasurable impact not only on Jackson’s coaching career, but on basketball.
“His giving to the game itself is something that’s a great benefit to a lot of people,” said Jackson. “People in the Philippines, New Zealand, Iceland and around the world remember his tour and the time he spent freely and givingly without really remuneration to just promote the game of basketball and particularly his style of it.”
Below is a transcription of comments made by Jackson about Winter:
Phil Jackson on Tex Winter:
On what Jackson learned from Winter more than anything else:
Jackson: How to develop an offense from skill drills is probably the best thing that Tex taught. Basketball starts with being able to pick up the basketball and pivot. From there you move into passing and then the other things that become more complicated, but you have to start from the very basic beginning with the basketball.
On a reason it took so long for Winter to get into the Hall, and the history of Jackson’s relationship with him:
Jackson: That an assistant coach would be in the Hall of Fame kind of grated on some people ... it was made up for head coaches, or general managers, or people that had played the game itself in a great nature. But Tex was the winningest coach in college when he went into the pros with the Houston Rockets, and he had been a head coach in so many different realms and arenas – not only in the Big 12 and the Big 8 but also out here at Long Beach St. before he retired as an active college coach – that to be hired on as a coach to the coaches is what (former Bulls GM Jerry Krause) wanted to do for him. It seemed kind of like an unusual position. He was shuttled around the Bulls organization a little bit during different realms of coaches, but we had a relationship that went very deep, Tex and I, simply because I wasn’t a very good coach and didn’t have a lot of knowledge, and he had a lot of knowledge. He and Johnny Bach both, his contemporary, who were my co-assistants when I was on that Bulls staff, kind of educated me on the different formats of basketball. Then Tex spent two summers with me teaching me how to develop the drills that I’ve used all these years, skill drills to develop the system that he’s taught. In that aspect, Tex was willing to go anywhere in the world to teach the offense, or teach basketball. His giving to the game itself is something that’s a great benefit to a lot of people. People in the Philippines, New Zealand, Iceland and around the world remember his tour and the time he spent freely and givingly without really remuneration to just promote the game of basketball and particularly his style of it.
On if anyone ever told Jackson he was wrong as much as Winter:
Jackson: My mother. I’ll tell you a story. (Knicks coaching legend) Red Holtzman, when we had a reunion I think 10 years after the 1973 championship, Red brought his wife over and said, ‘She’s the real coach, she tells me how to live my life.’ And that’s kind of how mother’s are. They’re the ones that tell you what’s right and wrong.
On the root of Jackson’s adoption of the triangle offense:
Jackson: Actually, the Knicks played a form of the triangle offense. We played a system that was very similar to that. As a player, I liked structure, I think it helps players settle into the game. I believed in it, and before I ran into Tex and was coaching in the CBA, I ran what’s called a Flex offense, which has its limitations, and I recognized that. In the process of coaching the Bulls at that particular time, (former Head Coach) Doug (Collins) was completely, often, befuddled by the fact that we had no real great point guard to contest with Isiah Thomas — not too many people did — but Tex kept encouraging (Collins) that a system offense would be able to play without having one specific ball carrier, floor leader on the floor, and tried to convince Doug to run the system. Having inherited that team and knowing that we had a guard named John Paxson that was really a terrific player and good leader, but not particularly a point guard, it was very easy to adopt that system of offense and use it in a variety of ways in which we still continue to due. A guy like Derek Fisher shares the point guard responsibilities with so many different people with Bryant, with Odom and so forth. It’s a shared opportunity, which is sort of a lost art in our game.
On the value of Winter being honest and direct with his critiques and criticisms:
Jackson: We used to say that there wasn’t much of a governor on Tex, he just spoke what his mind impulsively told him to say. He’s like the mind of the Basketball Gods. If you played against the rules of the game, he was going to comment to you, or comment to me in hopes that I would comment to the players later on. He got frustrated with players at times. A Michael Jordan, who he said couldn’t pass the ball right; Shaq who didn’t take coaching very easily; Kobe who over-penetrated or handled the ball too long so the offense didn’t run right. Every star that I’ve ever had on a team, except Scottie Pippen, he had trouble with parts of their game.