Tex Winter was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night. It was already fairly easy to argue that Winter's enshrinement came at least ten years too late, as the legendary coach's teachings of the Triangle Offense helped Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers win a total of nine NBA championships, but that became even clearer when watching his son Chris talk for him -- due to the elder Winter's complications from a stroke -- at the induction ceremony.
Before getting into what will probably end up being the equivalent of a day-late live blog of the most awkward Hall of Fame speech ever delivered by a son for his father, it seems necessary to note that Winter certainly deserved to be inducted on Friday night (it just would have been so much better if he was inducted in time for him to be able to give his own speech).
Instead, the trainwreck that was Chris's speech happened live on NBA TV.
The night begins nice enough as Tex and his son make their way up the stage, along with Winter's presenter Phil Jackson. Then, Tex says "go ahead" and the evening takes a hard right turn toward Awkward City with the words "Oh, and I'm Chris, by the way, and I'll be speaking for him."
Chris Winter started his speech by saying the film shown prior to the Winter's heading onstage was "pretty good, but it left out a few details" that he would try to fill in. Naturally, this leads to two minutes of talking about Butler Bulldogs basketball coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens is not related to the Winter family and Chris admits he doesn't even know the boyish-looking prodigy that's put Butler on the map. That doesn't prevent Chris talking all about him, however -- everything from Stevens' chances at the Hall of Fame to the fact that "he's actually 30, even though he looks 16 (LOL)" -- after noting that Winter's father's career began as a head coach for Marquette at the age of 25.
NBA TV tries to rein everything back in by cutting to the crowd, but it only brings up the level of awkwardness. Former Bull Steve Kerr is shown looking on in confusion, while NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver sits in front of him with a look on his face that almost seems to say "I should charge right on up there and announce that the lockout is over just to end this thing!"
Next up is Chris mentioning that Winter once coached Marquette to the Catholic League Championship. Even though Chris wasn't sure what that actually meant, he noted his father wasn't actually Catholic. Another awkward joke ensues about Mass and food before Chris Winter tells newly-minted Hall of Famer Chris Mullin that "It's not fair, Chris (speaking to Mullin in the crowd)."
There are literally one billion things the above exchange could be referencing, but once Winter mentions heresy, it becomes clear that -- as we've learned just five minutes after meeting this man -- Chris Winter chose the one that made things most awkward.
Chris's next bulletpoints on the "here's how to make everyone uncomfortable" notecards he'd apparently brought along dealt with Kansas vs. Kansas State, the Pac 8 and how fractured fibulas are actually kind of like broken mirrors in that both bring 11 years of bad luck to whomever is coaching closest to them.
Finally, Chris begins to talk about his father's NBA career. Kind of.
"He went through a period with the Houston Rockets," Chris Winter said of his father, "and there's a story that needs to be told but I won't tell it here because this is a celebration and we sort of dwell on success, but I will say that, y'know, losing and mediocrity, even, is part of coaching and it's part of the journey and you learn from it and you twiddle with things and you get through the barriers ... and basketball is really not all about winning and you tend to lose perspective in a place like this."
Seeing that the trainwreck is fully in tow at this point of the speech -- Chris just made a long meandering excuse for his father's 51-78 record with the Rockets from 1971-73 while not even mentioning his successes with the Bulls and Lakers -- Tex mumbles close enough to the mic to tell his son what everyone was already thing.
"Let's get outta here."
Chris uses this more as a guideline than a command, however, as the younger Winter proceeds to shout out a random Kansas State contingent in attendance before implying that Jackson's a bit lazy by retiring when he's 20 years younger than Tex did. Naturally, he capped it off by saying "well, I guess I'll go a little longer.".
Chris went on to talk about how Winter was a bit of an outcast, before unleashing another masterful quote.
"I think one of things that Dad told me was that in this life, the way to become sanity, to be sane, you need to be able to do two things: you need to be able to work and you need to be able to love," Chris said. "I think Red Auerbach would appreciate that and that statement is sort of a statement of genius in my view, but it didn't come from Tex, it came from Sigmund Freud."
So Chris's father didn't actually tell him that, but he learned it from Freud and therefore had no reason to bring it up on a night honoring his father's career. This time, the elder Winter coaches his son a second time, a bit more sternly, saying "let's go, let's go" audibly enough that the speech is finally finished.
Hats off to Tex Winter on an amazing Hall of Fame life, but it's sad that the committee members didn't vote the innovator of the Triangle Offense in early enough for him to be able to give his own Hall of Fame Speech