The Profile of a Hall of Famer: Tex Winter

On August 12th, the Naismith Hall of Fame will induct the class of 2011.  Members of this year’s class include Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, Artis Gilmore, Tara VanDerveer, Teresa Edwards, Arvydas Sabonis, Herb Magee, Tom “Satch” Sanders, Tex Winter, and Reece “Goose” Tatum. Over the next couple weeks leading up to the induction ceremony, we will be profiling members of this year’s class. 

First up is Tex Winter.

In 1985, Maurice Frederick Winter retired from a 34-year career as a basketball coach. He had nothing more to prove. His journey had first taken him out to California, from Texas, where he spent time both playing and studying the game he loved at USC under then coach Sam Berry.  It was there Winter earned a nickname from his teammates that he’d go one to make synonymous with the offense he first learned from his coach, and eventually taught to the world.  Sam Berry was an innovator with respect to what he called the triple post offense at that time; Winter’s teammates were rather obvious with their glossing of “Tex”. 

In 1951 Tex Winter got his first head coaching job at Marquette, and two years later he’d start a fifteen year run at Kansas State where he’d go on to be named Coach of the Year for guiding his Wildcats to the Final Four in 1958. They knocked off a #2 ranked Cincinnati team to get there, led by a guy named Oscar Roberston. It was at Kansas State he’d also first meet an NBA scout by the name of Jerry Krause, who’d place one of the more historic phone calls in basketball history over a decade later.  From K-State, Tex went on to be the head coach at Washington in 1968 and three years after that he accepted a head coaching offer from the Houston Rockets.  He took his Triangle Offense to the NBA for the first time in 1971, but he didn’t stay long.  According to Tex, he didn’t like the type of basketball being played in the NBA, so he came back to college and made two more stops at Northwestern and Long Beach State before retiring in 1985. 

It was then he got a phone call from that young scout he used to know.  It would end up playing a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of nine NBA championships.     

As Tex told in a 2007 interview he did while conducting a coaching clinic in Italy, two years before suffering a stroke in 2009, this is how he went from being a retired college coach who had won 454 games on the D-I level to becoming the architect behind an NBA offense that helped Michael Jordan win six championships and Kobe Bryant three more on top of that:  

“One day, I was watching TV, and I saw that the Bulls were introducing their new general manager, Jerry Krause, who, some years before, as a young NBA scout, had come many times to Kansas State. And he used to tell me: “When I become an NBA executive, I will hire you, because I want to use your offensive system.” I told my wife, Nancy: “Look at this man. He’s going to call me within 24 hours.” And he did! He called me the following morning, at about 7:30.”

We feel like we know the rest of the story from there, only we probably don’t.  If we did, it wouldn’t have taken Tex as long as it has to get him into the HOF, a place he should’ve been handed a key to over a decade ago.  In that same interview, Tex talked about teaching the Triangle Offense to Michael Jordan, as well as the point in which MJ finally bought into the system Tex had both perfected and mastered:

“I just can tell you that once the Chicago players became convinced of the system, they started a dynasty. I remember the first title, won in 1991, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, had first accepted the system. In previous years, Jordan didn’t like the triangle offense because he thought that his scoring would suffer, considering that all five players would have to share the ball on the floor.”

“The turning point for Jordan was in the 1986 playoffs. Jordan scored 63 points in Boston, but that wasn’t enough to win the game at the Boston Garden. And we lost the series 0-3. At that moment, Jordan changed his mind about the triangle offense. It was such a tremendous satisfaction for me to watch two superstars like Jordan and Pippen finally accepting my offensive system and making it work.”

It had to be satisfying for Jackson to see it too, because he was all-in as far as the Triangle went from day one.  People who criticize Phil say he’d have never won like he did without Jordan, and Scottie, and Shaq, and Kobe.  And while I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking, a better argument might be he’d have never won like he did without Tex.  But Jackson embraced Winter’s system from day one, he recognized not only its effectiveness but also Winter’s ability to teach it, and that paid off for him as we all know.  Winter went on to talk about teaching his system to not only the greatest player in NBA history, but arguably the greatest head coach as well in Jackson: 

“Phil was an assistant coach under Doug Collins at Chicago, and when he watched my offensive system, he convinced himself very quickly that it was a very efficient style of play. He told me that it reminded him of the offensive system used by Red Holzman’s New York Knicks, a team that won two NBA titles in the early ’70s, when Jackson had been a backup player on the team. Jackson watched the game from the bench, and could see how this style of play could allow his team to dominate. So, in 1989 when he became head coach of the Chicago Bulls, he adopted the triangle offense”.

This past season Phil Jackson talked about his relationship with Winter post-game on the night Tex was announced for enshrinement back in April.  He added the following on his long-time assistant, who he calls his mentor: 

“He [Tex] was shuttled and shunted around in the Bulls organization a little bit during different realms of coaches, between Stan Albeck and Doug Collins, 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. He had a lot of knowledge. He and Johnny Bach, his contemporary, who were my co-assistants when I was on that Bulls staff, kind of educated me about the different formats of basketball.”

“Then Tex spent two summers with me, teaching me how to develop all the drills that I’ve used all these years, skill drills to develop the system that he’s taught.”

“In that system, in that aspect, Tex was willing to go anywhere in the world to teach the offense and to teach basketball. His giving to the game itself is something that is a great benefit to a lot of people. I mean people in the Philippines and New Zealand and Iceland and around the world remember his tour and his time spent freely and givingly, without really remuneration, to just promote the game of basketball and in particularly his style of it.”

“For the past 15 years there have been people telling me that Tex is going in the Hall of Fame. When Tex was verbally and cognizantly capable of receiving this award, I would have been much happier. The fact now that he’s had a stroke that’s impaired his capabilities, it kind of irritates me a little bit that this wasn’t done 10 years ago when he was still serving basketball at such a great capacity.

“Still, in all, I’m happy that it’s been awarded.”

Tex Winter was arguably a HOF’er in 1985 when he retired the first time, though most people don’t remember what he accomplished prior to joining the Bulls.  They’ll forever remember what he went on to do after that though, and he’ll be celebrated as long as this ball is dribbled and chucked upwards of ten feet in the direction of a hoop for the impact he made over the course of his life.  He is one of the all-time greatest ambassadors, teachers, coaches, and mentors this game will ever know, in addition to being an offensive mastermind.  People like that belong places like the Hall of Fame, so congrats on getting there, Tex.  Much deserved sir, and long overdue. 

Hat Tips: FIBA.comESPN LA
Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.