Recently, I photographed K-State coaching legend Tex Winter during a men’s basketball reunion. Coach Winter revolutionized the game of basketball with his innovation of the triangle offense.
Sadly, Coach Winter suffered a stroke in 2009 which limits his movements and speech. However, when he arrived with his caregiver for our portrait session, he shook my hand and told me how pleased he was to meet me. I truly enjoyed our time together because he is such as inspiration.
Tex Winter attended Compton Community College in Los Angeles in 1940-41 where he competed as a pole vaulter and earned a scholarship to Oregon State University. He was considered for the United States Olympic team in 1944 but the Olympics were cancelled because of World War II.
He met his wife, Nancy, at Oregon State and both of them joined the United States Navy in 1943. Tex became a fighter pilot and was assigned to duty in the Pacific. After the war, he worked as a test pilot flying experimental aircraft at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas until 1946.
Winter returned to school at the University of Southern California where he played basketball and learned the triangle offense from Coach Sam Barry. After he graduated in 1947, Winter became an assistant coach to Coach Jack Gardner at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
Winter became the head coach at K-State in 1954 and directed the Wildcats to eight league titles and two Final Fours in 1958 and 1964. He was named UPI National Coach of the Year in 1958.
Coach Winter left K-State to become the head coach at Washington from 1968-1971 and the Houston Rockets from 1971-73. Winter coached at Northwestern and Long Beach State before returning to the NBA as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls in 1985. He taught the triangle offense to head coach Phil Jackson and their star guard, Michael Jordan. Together, they won six NBA championships in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. Winter and Jackson went to the Los Angeles Lakers where they won three more championship rings in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Winter is enshrined in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He also won the John Bunn Award for lifetime achievement and the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award by the NBA Coaches Association.
Tex and Nancy Winter now live in Manhattan, Kansas near Bramlage Coliseum where K-State plays their home basketball games. The street leading to Bramlage Coliseum is named Tex Winter Drive.