The battle for first place in the men’s Big 12 basketball standings begins this evening at 7:00 pm when #11 Kansas State and # 3 Kansas square off in Manhattan at Bramlage coliseum. Kansas has won a nation-leading 15 straight games. A new wrinkle has been added in this year’s intra state basketball rivalry that began in 1907. Former Kansas State basketball coach and father of the Triangle Offense, Tex Winter was Triangulating with the Jayhawks this morning a their 11:00 a.m. shoot around in Bramlage.
First, let me explain what I mean by Triangulating. We all use cell phones to communicate. A Triangle is used to connect the dots from two other towers to your phone if your location must be pin pointed in case of an emergency. This technology has saved lives. Why not take this concept a step further and use the cell phone triangulation process to build relationships
Instead of connecting the dots with cell phone towers, why not connect the dots with people. That’s why I started the Triangulate News series to capture stories starting with Tex Winter, then connecting a dot to his successor Cotton Fitzsimmons, and another dot to Cotton’s successor Jack Hartman. I was an assistant basketball coach at Kansas State under these three coaching legends during my four year career as a college coach.( 1967-68-69-70).
You’re probably wondering by now, who set up this meeting with Bill Self and the Jayhawks? It all started with Hall of fame sportscaster Bob Davis, the voice of the Kansas Jayhawks. Bob has been broadcasting KU sports during the past 28 years. Prior to that, he was the sportscaster for 16 years at Fort Hays State University and was hired by my father in law, legendary basketball coach, and later athletics director, Cade Suran. Bob and his wife Linda were like family to my in laws, but our paths hadn’t crossed until Bob contacted me about Medicare six months ago.
The Medicare visit led to a discussion about Tex Winter. From there Bob talked to Bill Self and told him Tex was living in Manhattan. Self asked Davis if he could see Tex when KU played in Manhattan. Bob set up the meeting and this morning I drove Tex to Bramlage to meet coach Self and his team. Upon arrival at Bramlage we were, stopped by a security employee of the athletic department. I rolled down the window, and said, ‘I’ve got Tex Winter with me and we’re meeting Bill Self in Bramlage.’ Then the guy said “Hey Tex, my name is Dennis McKale, and I was the last guy you cut when I tried out for basketball back when you coached here.” McKale stuck his arm through the open window, shook Tex’s hand, and waived us in through the security clearance, and said “park anywhere.
When we entered Bramlage, the television sports announcer for tonight’s game Dave Armstrong greeted us. Armstrong said he did his first K-State-Kansas men’s basketball game in Ahearn Field house in Manhattan back in 1982 when he was Sports Director at KSNW-TV in Wichita. Not long after, Bill Self walked on to the Bramlage court and spotted Tex. It’s difficult for Tex to verbalize, but he said to me , “I know him, he’s a young guy.” Bill and Tex talked briefly then Self waved the entire team over to meet Tex. Coach Self explained that Tex was a living legend and “Father of the Triangle” and helped Phil Jackson win eleven NBA titles with the Bulls and Lakers.
The players stood there in awe, and then each one shook Tex’s hand and introduced themselves. About that time, Fran Fraschilla, college basketball analyst for ESPN and tonight’s analyst with Armstrong on the Big 12 network came over to visit with Tex. I mentioned that I had coached Lon Kruger as a freshman at K-State and Fraschilla gave a big smile and said, “my son James plays for Coach Kruger and wants to be a coach.” Of course this led to talk about Kruger’s win over Texas last night and I mentioned I saw his son James on T.V during a shot of the bench and he was playing an invisible six string guitar and the rest of the team joined in when the Sooners made a run on the Longhorns. We got a good laugh out of that. Then Fraschilla said that he played against Rolando Blackman in high school. Fraschilla grew up in Brooklyn New York.
Are you starting to see the Triangulating picture as we connected one dot to another during the entire two hour visit. Fraschilla, Armstrong and Self heaped praise on Tex and thanked him for what he has done for the game of basketball. We stayed for two hours, and then Tex got up, put on his Purple Wildcat jacket ,walked to the center of the court to tell Bill Self goodbye, and waived to the team as he we left Bramlage.<u></u><u></u>
As you watch the game this evening, don’t forget that rivalries don’t have to be nasty because those who coach and play the game have a deep respect for one another. And, there’s not a better example than what I witnessed this morning when Tex went Triangulating with the Jayhawks.