Wednesday, August 10, 2011
THE SHAPE OF THINGS
Tex book basketball.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
This Summer we will finally hear the Winter's tale Naismith and the NBA have been waiting so long to be told. As legendary coach Tex Winter has his picture added to the Hall of Fame. The frame of his profile may as well be shaped like a triangle as this man birthed and helped orchestrate one of the leagues most innovative, iconic, enigmatic and successful basketball offences ever conducted
Along with dear friend and head coach partner Phil Jackson (who has the honour of presenting Winter with his induction to the hall) Tex worked the legendary triangle offence to the tune of 11 championship rings in Chicago and Los Angeles, how's that sound for tried and tested? These two old men ran rings round the young men of the NBA with their triangle which rendered their opposition out of shape and lost to this mysterious allure like Bermuda. The offence helped legends become true winners, whether their names where Mike or Kobe, or Shaq or Scottie. It also denied some of the leagues legendary best the ultimate title, from failed deliveries from Karl Malone to no time for Miller or answers for Iverson.
Good ol' Tex will finally get his due this year as the sports most hard to get to grips with strategy finally comes to terms with the association. The triangle enters the hall with it's inventor. A professor of coaching and master of the dry-erase board and the X's and O's. It really is a good job the Zen master is presenting the honour, as good luck to anyone else trying to explain the triangle, it's even harder than soccer fans trying to explain the offside rule in a bar. Winter has passed all tests though, knowing the game like no other, inside and out with all it's trimmings and hidden gems. Plus with a resume and report card that reads like the most likely to succeed, he's aced every test given as he's swotted away all the competition. Some fly in and out of this league with the seasons but Tex has been in this sport for over a half century with decades of dominance.
Texan Tex is a titan amongst legends a man who ruled the Western world and rounded up the beasts of the East in a lasso like a true maverick without even spending any time with Dallas. This years champions may have ended his and Jackson's victory streak but as Tex leaves the saloon of contenders people will share their Winter stories over a glass long after the doors stop swinging. We really need to raise our glasses and toast this man as there is no one quite like him.
From a playing career at USC college to coaching spells at Marquette, Kansas State, Washington, Northwestern, Long Beach State and the Houston Rockets in the NBA before his two most successful and sensational stints as an assistant, Winter has been everywhere and done it all with a 486-235 head coaching record. That's .674 that most of the NBA's best coaches don't or won't ever see. The man is already in the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and now he is set to walk the walk down of legends down Naismith's hall.
Also a recipient this year of the 'Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award', this mans life's work has been a deep dedication to his work and sport. Thanks to his legacy of the triangle offence Tex takes his innovation and influence to even more inspiring places this August. In a rush of talent in this class Tex is the most dynamic (and Dennis Rodman's here this year too) at the head as basketball's true teacher. As legendary as Red, Tex has coloured the league with his imagination and ideas. He literally wrote the book on this sport, back in '62 on the then termed 'Triple-Post Offence' and his writings, teachings and coachings have lasted through the decades and reissues. Winter started a basketball revolution and in the fall of his career we can only hope the next in line starts a basketball renaissance.
You see the plays Tex Winter designed where the blueprints of incredible ball playing. Basketball in it's purist, most fundamental form. If this art is lost with his career then it will be a real tragedy and injustice because even though Tex played and worked behind the scenes he's done as much good for this sport as anyone named Michael, Magic and Bird. He helped define the nighties with Jordan and Jackson and in the new millennium when everyone was 'crossing over' and looking for new ways to change and rule the game Tex and Jax still ruled the science of the game with their tried and tested formula that broke down the elements of the opposition, via pure basketball physics and team chemistry based on classic coaching.
Tex Winter's health problems have overshadowed his last few years in the league but he still stood by and consulted Phil Jackson after suffering a stroke. Now as he's set to receive his induction he will not be in his best health or state but that won't dampen his unconquerable spirit or the night of overdue celebration. His health may be failing him but his heart, soul, legend and legacy never will. So let's all stand up and give a round of applause as he proudly takes to the podium. Arguably the most underrated, under appreciated (by some), important and influential figures of the last century of basketball and for all time is finally getting his appreciation and just deserves. Let's hear it for him. Thanks Tex.