Tex Winter will finally enter the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, in an honor many feel is long overdue. The 89-year old is one of the most famous assistant coaches in NBA history, having been the brains behind the triangle offense that Phil Jackson used to help win 11 titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. One could argue that Winter had more impact on a championship team than most head coaches would.
Winter was an accomplished coach in his own right before coming to the Bulls. After graduating college in 1947, he coached at Marquette, Kansas State and Washington for two decades. His most successful stint was with Kansas State, where he led the Wildcats to eight league titles and two FInal Four appearances. He was famous for his offensive system that allowed his undermanned teams to compete with the very best. In 1962, he wrote a book on that offense called The Triple-Post Offense, which caught the eye of the Chicago Bulls many years later.
Winter moved on to a less-than successful stint as the Houston Rockets' head coach in the 70s. Then, in 1985, Bulls GM Jerry Krause, one of the biggest backers of Winter, made Winter his first hire after taking over. Winter eventually became Jackson's right-hand man, and Jackson was so impressed by his offensive system that he made it his duty to make it Chicago's way of playing. Michael Jordan resisted, but Winter and Jackson never backed down. Eventually, Jordan relented, and six championships followed. Jackson also took Winter to Los Angeles, where he was an assistant during the team's three straight titles from 2000 to 2002. Recently, due to his declining health, Winter has become a consultant, albeit a very valuable one as the Lakers won two more championships.
The irony of Winter is that he was beloved by both Krause and Jackson, even though Krause and Jackson grew to loathe each other. In a way, that's the story of Winter's career. He was always a basketball purist, unwilling and unable to play the political game that coaches often need to play. That may have hampered his Hall of Fame candidacy in the past, seeing as the Hall is a very political process. Now, though, he will finally get his due as one of the most influential basketball minds this game has ever seen.