Fred “Tex” Winter, the architect of basketball’s famous triangle offense and one of the most successful coaches in Kansas State history, died at the age of 96 on Wednesday in Manhattan.
Memorial services have not been announced.
Winter has deep coaching ties with several teams across the sport, as he won big at both the college and professional levels. But he has the most history with K-State.
After joining the Wildcats as an assistant in 1947 under Jack Gardner, he went on to become the head coach in 1953 and then led K-State to some of its greatest seasons. He went 261-118 over the next 15 years, winning eight conference championships and twice reaching the Final Four. He was the only person affiliated with all four of K-State’s Final Four teams (1948, 1951, 1959 and 1964).
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His best players included a pair of All-Americans in Bob Boozer and Jack Parr.
But Winter was even more successful as an assistant coach in the NBA, where he teamed up with Phil Jackson and coached the triangle offense, which he originally named the Triple Post Offense, on 11 championship teams — six with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and five with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Boozer described the Triple Post Offense as Winter’s “baby” in a 2010 interview with the Star.
Winter’s most famous NBA pupil agrees.
“I learned so much from Coach Winter,” Jordan said Wednesday night in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune. “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 was lucky to play for him.”
Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, who played under Winter on three of Chicago’s championship teams, called Winter “a basketball legend” and perhaps “the finest fundamental teacher in the history of our game.”
Winter has been inducted into several basketball Hall of Fames, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas called Winter “one of basketball’s greatest minds” after hearing news of his death.
In 2015, K-State named the road leading up to Bramlage Coliseum and its training facility after Winter.
“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. “Obviously, he is known for his success as an assistant to Phil Jackson with he 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.”
A native of Huntington Park, Calif., Winter spent the final years of his life in Manhattan surrounded by family and friends. He suffered a stroke in 2009, which made it difficult for him to speak and get around town, but he still attended several K-State basketball games each season.
He is survived by his wife, Nancy, his three sons and three grandchildren.
“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. “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.”