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Tex Winter, basketball coach who popularized triangle offense, dies at 96

Tex Winter, a former college basketball coach who later became an assistant in the National Basketball Association under Phil Jackson, who was considered a major proponent of the "triangle" offense, which was used by teams that have won 10 of the last 19 NBA championships, died Oct. 10 in Manhattan, Kan. He was 96.

Kansas State University, where he coached from 1953 to 1968, announced the death but provided no further details.

After leading Kansas State to eight conference titles and two Final Four appearances, Mr. Winter joined the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1985 as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson. Led by star player Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships under Jackson while employing a passing, team-oriented offense that Mr. Winter sharpened to perfection.

Mr. Winter came to the Los Angeles Lakers when Jackson was hired to coach the team in 1999. The Lakers employed the triangle offense in winning five NBA championships from 2000 to 2010.

"I learned so much from Coach Winter," 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."

Former Lakers star Kobe Bryant called Mr. Winter a basketball genius "in every sense of the word."


Mr. Winter did not invent the triangle offense, but in 1962, he wrote "The Triple-Post Offense," a 320-page book outlining the intricacies of the offense, called the triangle because it overloads one side of the court with a triangle formation of players. It emphasizes crisp passing and often gives a player an open shot after the defense lapses.

Mr. Winter gained a reputation as a basketball whiz, a professor with a clipboard, and once starred in an IBM commercial in which he charged an outrageous consulting fee after giving a quick lesson on the triangle offense to a team of former NBA stars.

Morice Fredrick Winter was born Feb. 25, 1922, in Wellington, Tex. He moved with his mother and a sister to California several years later, after the death of his father, and became known as "Tex."

An accomplished pole vaulter, Mr. Winter attended Oregon State University on a track scholarship before military service in World War II. After the war, he completed his education at the University of Southern California, where he played basketball alongside Hall of Famer Bill Sharman, who later coached the Lakers.

Their coach, Sam Barry, taught them the triangle offense.

Mr. Winter became an assistant coach at Kansas State in 1947, then became a head coach at Marquette University for two years before returning to Kansas State as head coach in 1953. He had a record of 261-118 and a school-record winning percentage of .689, while leading the Wildcats to Final Four appearances in 1958 and 1964.

He later held head coaching positions at the University of Washington, Northwestern University and Long Beach State. He also spent parts of two seasons coaching the NBA's Houston Rockets in the 1970s. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

He suffered a stroke in April 2009 while attending a reunion of his 1958 Kansas State Final Four team.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy, three sons and two grandsons.

Mr. Winter was known for his forthright manner and for his frank evaluations of basketball players, including such Lakers stars as Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

Mr. Winter spent more than 60 years on the sidelines as a coach and was asked whether his history with basketball reached back to hanging a peach basket on a wall for the sport's first game.

"No," he said. "But I was the guy that held the ladder."

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