By Robert Marvi
The Los Angeles Lakers became the team of the decade in the 2000s thanks to the talent, skill and will of Kobe Bryant and the low post excellence of Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol. While Phil Jackson got the credit for coaching and leading that team from the bench, Tex Winter also played a huge role.
On the evening of Wednesday, October 10, ESPN reported that former Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach, Tex Winter, had passed away at the age of 96. While he was known mostly as an assistant coach in the NBA, his contributions to the Lakers during his tenure there – as well as the sport as a whole – are often underappreciated.
Born in Texas, Winter and his family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was 14. He went on to attend both Compton Community College and Oregon State University. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he returned to college at USC, where he played basketball and got the education that would shape the singular aspect he became known for as a coach.
His coach at USC was Sam Barry, who was one of the early innovators of basketball back when the sport was in its prepubescent stage. He also invented a new offense that he called the “center opposite” offense, which emphasized running sequences in response to how the opponent’s defense was lined up that involved synergistic ball and player movement. It was the predecessor to the triangle offense that Tex Winter would eventually bring to the...