Tex Winter Rumors
“I’m a Tex Winter disciple, and in Chicago, I’ll never forget one of my first practices with Michael (Jordan) and Scottie (Pippen),” Kerr said. “Tex had us line up at half court throwing two-hand chest passes back and forth to each other, one-handed passes, left-handed bounce passes. You’re thinking, `What is this, third grade?’ “But there you’ve got the two best players on Earth throwing passes back and forth to each other. It’s a good reminder that fundamentals matter, no matter how old you are or how good you are.”
Krause, who died March 21, will be enshrined posthumously Friday in the Class of 2017, which includes Tracy McGrady, George McGinnis, Bill Self, Muffet McGraw and Rebecca Lobo. Krause’s legacy, in addition to six championships with the Bulls in the 1990s, was the hiring of coaches who went on to legendary careers, including Jackson, Doug Collins and Tex Winter. Krause renewed Winter’s stalled college coaching career and Winter went on to be honored by the Hall of Fame for his influence with the triple post offense. Collins went on to be a premier NBA coach and honored by the Hall of Fame’s media wing. The Bulls under Krause had arguably the most accomplished coaching staff in NBA history with Jackson, Winter and Johnny Bach, the latter an NBA player, head coach, assistant, college coach and defensive guru.
On the same day Phil Jackson tweeted an emoji of a triangle along with a Happy Birthday to his beloved offense’s creator, Tex Winter, Jeff Hornacek acknowledged the Knicks have re-embraced the system recently. In fact, sources told the Daily News that the Knicks spent an entire practice going over the offense, with assistant Kurt Rambis getting more involved.
Hodges was a triangle devotee, having played at Long Beach State for original practitioner Tex Winter. The veteran 3-point specialist won two titles as a player under Jackson in Chicago and two titles as a Lakers developmental coach under Jackson. “Tex told me he wanted me to help him get the players to understand the different movement and actions,’’ Hodges told The Post in an April interview. “For me it should be the only way you should teach basketball. Everybody gets an opportunity to touch the basketball and it’s not out of context with the purity of the game.’’
Steve Kerr, who excelled in the triangle as a player with the Bulls and now coaches the Golden State Warriors, said it was difficult to find players who could execute nuanced passing and movement. “Today’s game is so ball dominant,” he said. “Players grow up with the pick-and-roll, so they don’t naturally play without the ball. “So many one-and-done guys are incredibly gifted,” Kerr continued, referring to players who jump to the N.B.A. after a year in college, “but they’re not seasoned fundamentally. In Triangle, they’d be completely lost.”
To find a coach who does adapt his strategy year after year, I headed (by telephone) to the Research Triangle, to consult Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. “I never try to put my players in a system,” he said, not long before his adjustments enabled the Blue Devils to win the national championship. “I try to create a system that’s good for my players.” Had he thought of trying the triangle? The idea seemed to startle him. It was so successful, I ventured. “The triangle didn’t win crap!” he said sternly. “Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant! Whatever offense I run, that offense didn’t do it. Winning means you had the caliber of players capable of winning a championship.” Then he seemed to want to soothe the situation. “I have nothing against the triangle,” he said. “I think it’s a great offense. But it’s a lot better if Jordan loves it or Kobe loves it.”
When Bryant is told that the triangle prospered only because he was involved, he objects. “You’re supposed to win with a bunch of bums?” he said. “It baffles me to hear people talk about how this is a team sport and then say the triangle was only successful because Phil had great players. We were successful because we played in such a beautiful system. We had great coaches. It’s all in conjunction.” Jackson said: “You have a player like Michael Jordan, you’re going to have the opportunity to win championships. But to be able to do it consecutive times, three championships, and three more, that says a lot about what a team created.” So, I asked him, how does it feel when people say he won only because he had Jordan, Pippen, O’Neal and Bryant? He brightened. “Feels great!” he said. “I’m so glad I had those players. Made all the difference.”