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Phil Jackson comes to K-State and helps celebrate Tex Winter's life

Kansas City Star 10/20/2018 By Blair Kerkhoff, The Kansas City Star

Oct. 20--MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The basketball and sporting accomplishments of Tex Winter rolled in a well-produced video at his Celebration of Life service on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.

The essence of Winter, the extraordinary coach whose triangle offense-fueled teams won eight conference championships in 15 season at Kansas State and who served as an assistant for 11 NBA championship teams, provided the emotional moments of this occasion.

Speakers had trouble getting through prepared speeches and poems in tribute of Winter, who died on Oct. 10 at 96.

"One of the best human beings I've met in my life," said Jim Cleamons, who served as an assistant with Winter on four of the six Chicago Bulls title teams and all five won by the Los Angeles Lakers under Phil Jackson. "And one of the most giving people. He had so much energy. I don't know where he found it."

Jackson focused on favorite memories of his former top assistant, who essentially became the technical advisor to his teams.

"He was a teacher," Jackson said. "And basketball happened to be the thing he taught. ... It was all about details -- the simplest details and how to get those implemented in the players."

One of those details, Jackson recalled, was Winter's suggestion with the Bulls of moving Michael Jordan to a small forward or wing and putting Scottie Pippen on the top to push the action.

"That was the incremental leap that made us a championship team," Jackson said.

But Winter was so much more than coaching, Jackson said. He was a foodie and a lover of estate and garage sales. And bad with names.

Jackson remembered hearing a story about Winter, who was on a fund-raising trip for K-State and was told to make public mention of a key donor named Forrest Overbrook.

"He gives him a shout out and calls him Trees Brookover, and that made perfect sense in Tex's world," Jackson said.

There was the time he bought Jackson a $20 set of golf clubs for left-handers from a garage sale. Jackson golfs right-handed.

Lifetime honors came late for Winter. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame the next year.

Kansas State was his longest stop as a college head coach. He came to Manhattan after two years at Marquette and his final 13 years were spent at Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State.

But his greatest success occurred at K-State. He arrived in 1947 as an assistant to Jack Gardner, and the Wildcats went to Final Fours in 1948 and 1951. As a head coach, Winter took teams to the Final Four in 1958 and 1964.

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He's the only Kansas State coach to be associated with all of the program's Final Fours.

Winter worked with college greats like Ernie Barrett, who was in attendance Saturday, Jack Parr and Bob Boozer.

In the pros, Jordan, Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were among those operating in a Winter-designed offense.

The Bulls gave Winter his first NBA job in 1985. Jackson joined the staff as an assistant two years later and became the head coach in 1989. The triangle was seen as an ancient system, but Jackson believed it would work if Jordan could be convinced to score less and share more. It took a conversation.

Jackson: "You scored over 37 points a game last year. We're going to have to bring that down a few points. We're going to share the basketball more. We want everybody to participate in this offense."

Jordan: "Oh, that Tex Winter equal opportunity offense?

Jackson: "Yes, that's the one."

Jordan: "What's going to happen when that 24-second clock gets down to six seconds and the ball is in Bill Cartwright's hands?

Jackson: "We'll teach him to pass it to you."

Six championships in Chicago, five in Los Angeles later ...

"Tex gave us a way to play the game of basketball that was principled," Jackson said. "We talked about playing according to the basketball gods. He lived that life. And we're thankful for it."

Blair Kerkhoff

Blair Kerkhoff covers the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals and college sports for The Star.

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