Former coach Tex Winter, who pioneered the triangle offense that propelled the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to multiple NBA championships, has died at the age of 96.
Kansas State University said Winter died Wednesday in Manhattan.
“I learned so much from Coach Winter. He was a pioneer and a true student of the game,” Michael Jordan said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune. “His triangle offense was a huge part of our six championships with the Bulls. He was a tireless worker. Tex was always focused on details and preparation and a great teacher. I was lucky to play for him. My condolences to his family.”
Winter began his coaching career as an assistant under Jack Gardner at Kansas State in 1947, before a two-year stint at Marquette, where he became the youngest coach in major college basketball at the age of 30.
He later returned to Kansas State, where he served as head coach for 15 years and led the Wildcats to two Final Four appearances in six NCAA tournament trips.
Winter, who published “The Triple-Post Offense” in 1962, made the leap to the NBA in 1971, serving as head coach of the Houston Rockets for two seasons. He was hired as an assistant coach with Chicago in 1985 by general manager Jerry Krause, teaming with head coach Phil Jackson to guide the Jordan-led Bulls to NBA titles in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998.
“Tex Winter was a basketball legend and perhaps the finest fundamental teacher in the history of our game,” said Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, a former player under Winter. “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.”
In 1999, Winter followed Jackson to Los Angeles, where the triangle offense became the cornerstone of a Lakers team that won three championships from 2000 to 2002. He was a consultant with Los Angeles’ 2009 title team, and the Lakers also won in 2010.
“On behalf of the entire Lakers organization, I’d like to express our sadness at the passing of Tex Winter,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “Tex helped lead the team to four NBA Championships and was a mentor to many of our coaches and players. In addition to his numerous contributions to the game of basketball, Tex was a wonderful man and he will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Winter family.”
Winter was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, his eighth time on the final ballot. A year earlier, he had been elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Born Morice Fredrick Winter in 1922 near Wellington, Texas, he grew up in Huntington Park, California, and starred at Oregon State and Southern California in basketball and as a pole vaulter.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.