Hall of Famer. NBA champion. Innovator. Legend.
No matter which title you pick, all apply to Fred “Tex” Winter, the former Kansas State head coach and renowned NBA assistant who died Wednesday in Manhattan. Winter was 96.
Winter coached K-State from 1954-68, leading the Wildcats to two Final Fours and a 261-118 record, but he was more widely known as the architect of the triangle offense and the assistant coach who helped Phil Jackson lead the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to a combined 11 NBA championships.
Winter was an assistant to Jackson when Michael Jordan and the Bulls won NBA titles in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. He then accompanied Jackson to L.A. and helped the Lakers win championships in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009.
“Tex Winter was a basketball legend and perhaps the finest fundamental teacher in the history of our game,” former Bulls player John Paxson, now the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, said in a statement. “He was an innovator who had high standards for how basketball should be played and approached every day.
“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.”
Before teaming up with Jackson, Winter won more than 500 games as a college and pro head coach. In collegiate stints at Marquette (1951-53), K-State (1954-68), Washington (1969-72), Northwestern (1975-78) and Long Beach State (1978-83), he won 454 games.
He also coached the NBA’s Houston Rockets from 1972-74, going 51-78, and published a book in 1962 titled “The Triple-Post Offense.”
Winter was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City in 2010. The following year he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Today is a sad day for not only Kansas State University but also the entire basketball world with the passing of Coach Winter,” K-State athletic director Gene Taylor said in a statement. “He transformed the game of basketball at all levels and will always remain an integral piece of our rich basketball tradition here at K-State. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winter family during this time. He will certainly be missed by the entire K-State family.”
At K-State, Winter led the Wildcats to some of their greatest successes. Initially an assistant to Jack Gardner from 1947-51, he helped K-State reach two Final Fours before taking over at Marquette as the nation’s youngest coach and leading the Warriors to the national Catholic championship in his first season.
Winter succeeded Gardner in 1953 and promptly continued K-State’s tradition of winning. The native of Huntington Park, Calif., led the Wildcats to eight Big Seven/Eight titles, six NCAA Tournament appearances and Final Fours in 1958 and 1964.
His 1958 team featured a pair of All-Americans in Bob Boozer and Jack Parr and lost only three regular-season games.
Winter’s 261 wins rank second in school history, trailing only Jack Hartman’s 295, and his eight league titles are tops among all K-State coaches. He also is the only person affiliated with all four of K-State’s Final Four teams.
“We are saddened by the passing of such a legendary coach in Fred ‘Tex’ Winter, who touched nearly every level of basketball,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said in a statement. “Obviously, he is known for his success as an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Bulls and Lakers during their run to 11 NBA titles. However, he left a tremendous mark of achievement at Kansas State, including two Final Fours. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nancy, his children, Brian, Chris and Russ, and grandchildren during this difficult time.”
K-State dubbed the road leading to Bramlage Coliseum “Tex Winter Drive” in January 2015. Winter is a member of the university’s sports hall of fame as well as the Kansas Sports Hall.
Winter is survived by his wife, Nancy, sons Brian, Chris (Kim) and Russ, and three grandchildren.
Memorial services are pending.