Blog Entry

Winter honored, but still one missing

Posted on: June 6, 2010 7:43 pm

LOS ANGELES – In a touching moment before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, offensive guru Tex Winter got the recognition he deserves when he received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association.

Winter, 88, still recovering from a stroke in 2009, insisted on making the trip from his home in Manhattan, Kan., to receive the award with Dr. Jack Ramsay. But there is still a gaping hole in Winter’s resume, something that he deserves and has been denied again and again: admission to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I never cared about promoting dad for the Hall of Fame,” his son, Chris, said after the award ceremony. “I have relatives that do. One of the things that I found after he had his stroke was, I went to his apartment and he had literally rooms and rooms of letters. I don’t know if this is going to help his cause or not, but they all asked the same question: ‘Why aren’t you in the Hall of Fame?’ So maybe I don’t care, but there are a lot of people out there who do.

“It’s a little embarrassing to have to go through that, to get the call from the Hall that you didn’t get the votes again,” said Chris Winter, an engineer in Boston. “But next time, maybe he’ll get in. … I think the people have spoken. Whether the Hall of Fame listens, I don’t know.”

His father, innovator of the triangle offense that has fueled 10 NBA titles for Phil Jackson – six with the Bulls and four with the Lakers – wanted to receive the award in person despite his ongoing speech struggles after the stroke. He made brief remarks during the news conference, and afterward, his son had tears in his eyes as he spoke about how his father’s struggle to regain his health.

“He sees everything, but he can’t say anything,” Chris Winter said. “… If you talk with him a lot, you can decipher what he’s trying to say. He’s aware of what’s going on and understands what’s going on, but he can’t communicate it well.”

Jackson, who had met Winter only once in an airport before joining forces with him in Chicago under then-GM Jerry Krause, said Winter’s resume should speak for itself.

“His coaching record is impeccable,” Jackson said. “… I used to kid him that all the people who would have voted him in the Hall of Fame had passed away, so he had nobody to vouch for him. And the new breed that came in were saying he was an assistant coach. But Tex wasn’t just any assistant coach, that’s for sure.”

The proof is inscribed right there, on all those championship rings.

“I think he’s left his legacy regardless of any awards he gets,” Chris Winter said. “People use his offense all over the world, and he’s proud of that. To receive an award from your own people, I don’t know, it’s not a Nobel Prize, but it means something, you know? It’s kind of therapeutic to him.”

And well deserved.
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