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Lakers' Phil Jackson wants Tex Winter in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

April 7, 2010 |  6:22 am

Throughout his tenure with the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson had long advocated for Tex Winter to get a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Jackson even went to the extent in engaging in a letter-writing campaign so that the current architect could get his due.

But to this day, Winter is still waiting to join the club. Shortly after Jackson praised Lakers owner Jerry Buss for his recent induction, the Zen master remained skeptical if Winter will ever be in the Hall of Fame beyond his "contributor" tag.

"It's like Tex says, he's outlived all his contemporaries," Jackson said of Winter, who had been an active consultant with the Lakers until suffering a stroke last April. "It's a hard shot for him to get in."

This conversation seems to pop up every year, and Fox Sports' Charley Rosen presented a strong argument for The Sporting News in 2003 on why Winter should be inducted:

Winter's honesty, modesty and innovative genius are unquestioned. He's the man who invented the triangle offense, on which nine NBA titles have been forged. But let's look at his record: He was a head coach at Marquette, Kansas State, Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State. Winter was named UPI Coach of the Year in 1959 at KSU and served for many years as chairman of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Winter also made his mark in the NBA decades ago. After coaching the Houston Rockets and running afoul of Elvin Hayes' stubbornness and disinclination to learn basketball fundamentals, Winter eventually landed in Chicago as an assistant coach. He was underutilized by Doug Collins (who scoffed at the triangle), but when Phil Jackson took over in 1989, Winter found his rightful function: as mentor to a bright student. Jackson totally believed in, mastered and helped refine the triangle, an inclusive philosophy that creates a structure for every correct instinct and movement from baseline to baseline and from tip to buzzer. Under Winter's tutelage, Jackson won six championships in Chicago and three more in Los Angeles. At age 81, Winter remains the most venerable of the NBA's assistant coaches. His vitality, acuity and integrity remain intact.

Why, then, is he still on the outside looking in? Because he never curried favor with the Eastern Mafia. Because everybody who appreciated his successes as a college coach are either retired or expired. And because the Lords of Springfield believe that assistant coaches are insignificant underlings. Not only does Tex Winter deserve the honor, but his election to the Hall of Fame would go a long way toward alleviating the stench in Springfield.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com


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