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Tex Winter turns 91 Feb. 25

By Larry Weigel

Tex Winter will be 91 on Monday February 25th.  He was born in Wellington Texas on February 25, 1922. His twin sister Mona Francis was born first and within 15 minutes-Tex arrived.  Tex told Ann Parr, author of “Coach Tex Winter’s Triangle Basketball,”  -  “When the doctor announced to my mother that she had twins- and then said to her ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got another one’,  my mother said, “No, no, no no-I don’t want it put it back.”  His mother kept him and named him Morice Fredrick.

Tex’s family moved to Lubbock, Texas in 1929, and he lived there until age 15.  His dad was a mechanic but died when Tex was ten.  In 1936, Tex- his sister Mona and his mother Theo- moved to Huntington Park, California- where his mother worked as a sales manager in a clothing store.  Tex’s older sister Elizabeth had moved to California and encouraged Tex’s mother to move there.  Tex’s older brother Ernest remained in Lubbock to finish high school.

Dust Bowl 1930’s carCar owners in the dust bowl days-hired drivers to transport people heading west and charged $5 per person for the trip. The Winter’s used such a vehicle on their trek to California and paid the $5 bucks each to get there.

The Tex we know went by Fred or “Freddie” Winter until the Californians picked up on his Texas twang and soon he became known as “Tex.”  Tex graduated from Huntington Park High School in 1940, and attended Compton Junior College for two years.  He headed to Oregon State in 1942 -and it was there he met Nancy Chase Bohnenkamp.  Their courtship was interrupted by the war. Tex became a Navy pilot.  Nancy joined the WAVES.

Tex returned to USC (University of Southern California)where he became an All-American pole-vaulter and vaulted a best of 14’4” with a bamboo pole. He played basketball for the legendary USC coach Sam Barry who ran a version of what was to become the Triangle Offense pioneered by Tex in later years.  He graduated from USC and married Nancy during July of 1946.

Jack Gardner, the head basketball coach at Kansas State hired Tex as his assistant.  The Winters headed for Manhattan Kansas and arrived during August of 1947. He assisted Gardner from 1947-51.  In 1951, Tex accepted the head coaching job at Marquette University and at the time was the youngest head basketball coach in the Nation.  He returned to Kansas State as head coach in 1953.

Between 1954-68, Tex won 262 games and lost 117 and still holds the #1 spot in winning percentages (.689) of all 23 Kansas State head coaches starting with C.W. Melick in 1905- to the current head coach Bruce Weber. During his tenure at Kansas State, Tex won 8 conference championships, appeared in two NCAA Final fours, and was National coach of the year in 1958.

He left Kansas State in the spring of 1968 and was head coach at the University of Washington from 1968-71.  He was hired as head coach of the Houston Rockets and coached only one season there 1971-72.  He went to Northwestern University after that and served as head coach from 1973-78.

Long Beach State hired him as their head coach in 1978, and he coached there from 1978-82.  In 1982 LSU’s Dale Brown hired Tex as his assistant for one year 1983-84.

Jerry Krause, General Manager of the Chicago Bulls had always admired Tex’s genius and hired him as a special consultant to the Bull’s head coach Doug Collins in 1985.  Collins wasn’t sure how to handle Tex looking over his shoulder- and didn’t embrace the Triangle offense.  Collins hired Phil Jackson as an assistant coach in 1987 and now Tex had an ally who understood the significance of what the Triangle offense could do to keep Michael Jordon form wearing out- since Collins used Jordon as a one man scoring machine. Jordon was scoring 50+ points per game but the Bulls were losing.

But the “Zen Master” Jackson listened to Tex and began studying the Triangle offense.  Collins was fired. Jackson was hired -and the rest is history.  Jackson and Tex won 6 NBA championships for the Bulls during 1989-1999.

The Lakers hired Jackson in 2000, and Tex followed him to LA.  Tex helped Jackson win 4 more NBA championships between 2000-2008.  Tex retired in 2009 and moved to Portland Oregon, while Phil won his 5th NBA title for the Lakers without Tex on the bench.

Tex was invited to the Kansas State Alumni Association’s annual spring reunion to join members of the 1958-59 teams for their 50th year celebration.  The next day on April 25, 2009, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized.  Later he was transferred to St. Luke’s hospital in Kansas City.  Then, he returned to live in Oregon.  But, as more care was needed he returned to Manhattan.  Now he and Nancy are living with their son Brian.

Let’s send some Birthday Cards.  If you’d like to participate in the Birthday Shower, send your greetings to Tex Winter, 1812 Todd Rd, Manhattan, and Ks. 66502.  Include pictures.  Tex loves pictures because his speech is quite limited due to the stroke- but his favorite saying is , “I know him, or I know her”, as he looks at a picture of someone he remembers from the past .

We’re having our annual birthday celebration on Monday at 4:00 P.M.  I’ m bringing in the traditional BakinRobbens Triangle CAKE and we’ll have a guitar singing session at the Winters.. It would be great to walk into a room full of Birthday CARDS.. so please do it today so the card arrives by Monday.

Thank You and Keep Triangulating..

(Tex’s 2002 Laker Championship ring-Triangle with diamonds)

Happy Birthday Coach !  We Love You…

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