Tex Winter, father of triangle offense, dies at 96

Fred “Tex” Winter, who was an assistant coach for the championship Bulls and Lakers as well as a head coach in college and the NBA, died Wednesday at 96.

Winter was one of Phil Jackson’s key assistants and helped teach the triangle offense to Michael Jordan. He was with Chicago for all six of its championships in the 1990s.

“Tex Winter was a basketball legend and perhaps the finest fundamental teacher in the history of our game,” Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson said in a statement. “He was an innovator who had high standards for how basketball should be played and approached everyday. Those of us who were lucky enough to play for him will always respect his devotion to the game of basketball. His contributions to the Bulls organization will always be remembered.”

He also coached with Jackson with the Lakers and was on the staff from 1999-2008. Los Angeles won three straight titles from 2000-02.

“We used to say there wasn’t much of a governor on Tex,” Phil Jackson told ESPN in an interview in 2011. “He just spoke what his mind impulsively told him to say and it was 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, or (Shaquille O’Neal) who wouldn’t take coaching very easily, or Kobe who over-penetrated or handled the ball too long so the offense didn’t run right. So, every star that I ever had on a team, except Scottie Pippen, basically he had trouble with parts of their game.”

Winter was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. He was one of the first primarily assistant coaches selected to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2011.

“I learned so much from Coach Winter,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He was a pioneer and a true student of the game of basketball. His triangle offense was a huge part of our six championships with the Bulls. He was a tireless worker, always focused on details and preparation, and a great teacher. I learned so much from Coach Winter and was lucky to play for him. My condolences to his family.”

Winter served as an assistant at Kansas State before getting his first head coaching job at Marquette in 1951. He went on to serve as the head man at Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State, amassing a 453–334 career record.

Winter was the Rockets’ head coach from 1971-73. He tallied a 51-78 record before he returned to the college ranks.

Winter learned the triangle offense from Sam Barry when he played at USC in the 1940s.