Forget the Beatles! The Bulls were rockstars with the likes of Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman and head coach, Phil Jackson.
The Bulls also had their infamous triangle offense that was constructed by assistant coach, Tex Winter.
During a recent episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast, I discussed the Bulls and their locker room with hoops historian, Roland Lazenby.
Lazenby has written more than five dozen nonfiction books, mainly about basketball and American football.
Check out our Q&A below:
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: That’s’ right. Scoop B Radio on the line with Roland Lazenby talking all things basketball…you mentioned Tex Winter who I’m fascinated with. Tex Winter one of the Bulls assistants during the Michael Jordan/ Phil Jackson era. Will Purdue from the Bulls told me a story one time. He told me about how when the Bulls were on a team flight, Tex Winter would have a grocery bag. While they were on the team flight flying somewhere, he dumps it out and he’s reading all his mail. So Will Purdue asks him, “Tex what are you doing?” and he goes, “I’m filling out Publisher’s Clearinghouse. I’m trying to win money.” Will Purdue says, “You’re an assistant coach on the Chicago Bulls. Why are you trying to win Publisher’s Clearinghouse?”…You know that was big joke on the plane. What was Tex Winter like?
Roland Lazenby: Tex man, he changed my life [laughs]. Tex was a child of The Depression and he went to California to go to school, he was originally from Texas. I thought he was named Texas, but his name was Fred. Morice Fred “Tex” Winter. He was in the military during WWII which he was a pilot, he came back from the war, and went to USC and played for Sam Berry. Bill Sharman was his teammate, and Alex Hannum was another. Those three played at Southern Cal. Now they all coached anad played in the NBA. Tex never played in the NBA but he did play a little bit of junior college ball against Jackie Robinson. So Tex from his college days, he was a pole vaulter… Tex was just crazy [laughs], but brilliant. And he developed Sam Berry’s sideline ‘Triangle Offense’ sideline opposite, center opposite into the ‘Triangle’ and he created a system based on fundamentals and it’s a ‘Read’ offense. It’s a read and react. But Tex was the only guy really who could stand up to Phil Jackson OR stand up to Michael. I mean Tex would challenge your heart. The great story is when Shaq was flying down the sideline in a Lakers practice and he and Tex used to go at it. Tex would challenge – Tex jumps out in front of him to take a charge and Phil is saying this old guy is going to get killed out here! [Laughing] … Jordan would be coming back at him while he’s giving instructions, Jordan would come up behind him and pull his pants and his shorts down and there would be Tex’s bare butt and everything hanging out of jockstrap [Laughs]… they would go back and forth and Tex would just – Johnny Bach was the other older assistant coach for the Bulls. He was really tight with Michael. He said, “Tex believed in the Triangle Offense like he believed in the gospel pages”. I got to know Tex, he gave me his book and so I ran the Triangle Offense with my AAU Team and we went to the Division One Nationals. We didn’t win it all but we finished like, third in the Shootout which is like the top 15. But it was running the Triangle and I broke it down and made it real simple, I was working with 12 year old girls. I had two really good post players, and the Triangle is post-offense but I wanted run it so that I would be smart enough writing about it. And the only way you can really learn an offense, to really learn it: is to coach. And I could call Tex all the time and he would be excited because I really was attached to it. I wasn’t just sort of writing about it without really understanding it, which is what happened a lot. A lot of people obviously didn’t understand the Triangle. Basically the Triangle involves filling the corner. It was a 2-guard front instead of a one guard front. The one guard front we had to put at the top of the four. Somebody comes up to set a screen and that’s fine in the Triangle you can have all kinds of looks. The Lakers ‘01 championship run did a screen-and-roll out of the Triangle. If it’s a 2 guard front, make the first pass, one of the other guards cuts through to the corner. Say one of the 2 guard front cuts over to the 3-point area in the right corner…well the idea always was that always created an unbalanced floor and that meant that – let’s say that you have Steve Kerr (a real good shooter) in the corner. That meant that you have to have a defender go over there with him and what that meant is that you had Kobe or Michael roam the opposite side on the weak side of the floor, you could make it really hard to double team them and they could operate especially if they were quick getting to the basket, they could get all kinds of things. Of course that was just the fundamentals of it. Jordan and Kobe, guys like that are superior offensively on the weak side where the double team is going to build. And they learned how to operate in that format, but you know, both of those guys elevated the Triangle beyond what anybody could ever really done with it because of their superior presence not just in scoring the ball but just figuring out other ways that it worked. So Tex was – that’s a very long answer but Tex was the guy for me. He gave me a quality of information, the guy couldn’t tell a lot, I said that I learned – I figured out how to deal with Jordan, Tex actually explained everything that was going on, so I didn’t waste time with bs questions with Jordan. I remember the first time I wanted to break through, I was traveling with and following the team, we were up in Toronto. I had begun to notice a pattern. Pippen would come out of the shower first, and all of the media would in the locker room would just go to him like a moth to a flame. All the reporters with the soundbites and the microphones and the tape recorders, all the reporters with the notepads would be over there interviewing Pippen and it would usually be about a minute or 90 seconds later, here comes Jordan out of the shower. And everybody would have their back and I would maybe have enough time to walk across the locker room and suddenly they would turn around and see Michael come out and then it would be insane. I would have a question that I would want ask him, and so I would have that one question ready (that Tex explained some things to me), and so then that meant he – Jordan he knew – It was amazing. He knew everybody in that room! If somebody would come in, he would immediately pick up on them. He was so alert. He was so alert that – Tex was already in his late 60’s by the he got to coach Jordan. Tex coached Jordan longer than anybody, but you would think that Tex wasn’t an intimidator but Tex always said I was intimidated by his presence from the very start. And that give-and-take between the two of them… it wasn’t warm and fuzzy, but they both had a high appreciation for each other. So Tex was THAT guy and he would just discuss things frankly, it was a lot deceptive things around those Bulls teams, a lot conflict, a lot of mind games, played by Phil Jackson. And that was the name of my Phil Jackson biography. It was called: Mind Games. Just amazing stuff. So Tex, it was Jerry Krause versus the rest of the Bulls. The general manager. And Tex was close with Jerry Krause and was very close with everyone else too. And Tex was sort of very honest about all of them and Tex just tried to be a very honest guy and he was a goldmine. When you’re working as a journalist you will run into people that will really change the course of your life just because – I call it journalism. I began this thing called the “Best Minds Principle”. I always tell this to my students. When I talk to them about ‘Best Minds’. The wonderful thing about your profession, you can track down the “best minds” in basketball but I use “best minds” in any given field. You can use your blog, or whatever you’re doing to try to get a chance to interview the very top people and you make them your colleagues in that process and it only occurred to me after the fact. I interviewed a lot of people by then. But nobody changed my life like Tex Winter did that time.