Tex Winter: The Architect Behind the Bulls and Lakers Dynasties Dies at 96

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Tex Winter, center, is inducted as his son Chris Winter speaks on his behalf while as Phil Jackson looks on during the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on August 12, 2011 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tex Winter, the man who pioneered the triangle offense which revolutionized the NBA, died on Wednesday in Manhattan, Kansas, at the age of 96.

News of his passing was first confirmed by Kansas State University where Winter began his coaching career as an assistant between 1947 and 1951.

After two years in charge at Marquette, Winter returned to KSU, this time assuming the head coach role which he would hold until 1968.

It is with great sadness to learn of the passing of legendary #KStateMBB head coach Fred "Tex" Winter. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winter family. pic.twitter.com/DA0QUYkjRK

— K-State Athletics (@kstatesports) October 11, 2018

Winter led the Wildcats to six NCAA tournaments during his 15-year spell as coach but never managed to win the national title, despite reaching the Final Four twice.

In 1971 he eventually made the leap to the NBA, coaching the Houston Rockets for two seasons. Winter's rise to prominence coincided with his return to the NBA in 1985, when Chicago Bulls' general manager Jerry Krause hired him as assistant.

Winter immediately began teaching a young Michael Jordan the triangle offense he had perfected at KSU—in 1962, he published a book entitled "The Triple-Post Offense'' in which he delved into his tactical approach—and by the time Phil Jackson was promoted to head coach in 1989 the offense had become a major weapon for the Bulls.

Chicago won three titles in a row between 1991 and 1993, repeating the feat between 1996 and 1998, before Jordan retired for a second time.

"I learned so much from Coach Winter," Jordan said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune.

"He was a pioneer and a true student of the game. His triangle offense was a huge part of our six championships with the Bulls. He was a tireless worker. Tex was always focused on details and preparation and a great teacher. I was lucky to play for him. My condolences to his family.''

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, who played under Winter, described Winter as "a basketball legend and perhaps the finest fundamental teacher in the history of our game."

The #Bulls are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Tex Winter.

Read more on the statement from Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, John Paxson: https://t.co/v0iJm98IL3 pic.twitter.com/tT4W6NjyVd

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 11, 2018

Following the second "three-peat", Jackson moved to Los Angeles and Winter followed him to the Lakers, where the triangle offense became the cornerstone of the franchise's three consecutive titles between 2000 and 2002.

Winter, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame, was also part the Lakers' coaching staff when the team won a last title under Jackson in 2010.

"Tex used to always try to get me in the game. I love Tex," Lakers head coach Luke Walton told ESPN. "I was talking to [Golden State Warriors head coach] Steve [Kerr] about it.

"We were saying just how much guys like us owe our entire playing careers to Tex and people like that who really teach the game."

My mentor. I sat with Tex & watched every minute of every game during our 1st season together. He taught me how to study every detail. He was a bball genius in every sense of the word. I’ll miss him deeply. Thank you Tex. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/qgjPgP7K95

— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) October 11, 2018

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, the icons of the early 2000s Lakers, both paid tribute to Winter. The former described him as a basketball genius "in every sense of the word", while the latter insisted Winter's tactical innovations remained as relevant as they had ever been.

"It's the perfect offense," Shaq said of the triangle offense.

"It can definitely be used today. I've seen Golden State use it every now and then, forms of it anyway. But one of the greatest offensive weapons ever created."