Tex Winter Rumors
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.’’
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.”
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.”
Like most of the professional and college coaches I spoke with, Carril abhors the current strategic trends in the N.B.A., which he thinks shun passing combinations in reducing the game to pick-and-rolls and 3-pointers. “I don’t see the mystery of the triangle offense, except it goes against the grain of the way the game is played today,” Carril said.
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.”