Coaches get lifetime achievement award
LOS ANGELES -- Tex Winter and Dr. Jack Ramsay were presented with the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, a distinction that represents "a person, or in this case persons, who have over a career set a high standard of integrity, competitive excellence and a commitment to the promotion of the NBA game," said NBA Coaches Association president Rick Carlisle.
Winter, making a rare public appearance since suffering a stroke last April, accepted the glass trophy award while wearing a white button down shirt with the word "Lakers" embroidered on the chest, the last stop of a coaching career that spanned more than 50 years, including stops at Marquette, Kansas State, Washington, Northwestern and Long Beach State at the collegiate level and the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls in the NBA.
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"Dad is very honored to receive this award and it's good to be home," said Chris Winter, Tex's son who spoke on behalf of his father whose speech faculties have been affected by the stroke. Winter has settled in Oregon with his wife Nancy but was so excited to make the trip back to Los Angeles that he was staring out of the window of the plane the whole flight down. "This is where he really lives, really, and it's good that we could receive in there."
As much as the award Winter received Sunday was welcome, after the presentation was over the conversation shifted to how Winter's name should live on forever in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Winter was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in February and received the John Bunn Award from the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1998, recognizing him as an important contributor to the game, but not honoring him in the Hall as a coach.
Ramsay, who led the Portland Trail Blazers to the championship 33 years ago to the day Sunday and was enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1992 as a coach, used Sunday to focus on Winter's achievements, rather than his own.
"Tex had such a great impact on the game," Ramsay said. "His triangle offense has been a major part of college and NBA basketball for, I don't know, maybe 30, 40 years now. It will continue to be. Phil Jackson adopted this. I mean, this is a tremendous accomplishment for a coach, to have his imprint on the game not only during his time of coaching it but to have it carry through with somebody else coaching it and have it come out as well as it did. Ten championships? Come on."
Jackson, who was on the eight-man committee consisting of retired coaches Lenny Wilkens and Billy Cunningham, current coaches Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and assistant Bernie Bickerstaff of the Bulls; team presidents Donnie Walsh of the New York Knicks and Pat Riley of the Miami Heat; and owner Michael Heisley of the Memphis Grizzlies who chose Winter for the Daly Award, watched the ceremony from the back of the room and addressed Winter's Hall of Fame case in his pregame comments to the media.
"His coaching record was impeccable," Jackson said. "For the first 20 years of basketball that he coached he was one of the top coaches ever in the game.
"But he served as president of the NABC, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which is the NCAA Coaches Association. For a number of years he was on their advisory board. And I used to kid him that all the people that would have voted him in the Hall of Fame had passed away, so he had nobody to vouch for him at that time.
"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."
Winter showed some of his patented fire and wit, his face lighting up when he pointed at Lakers special assistant Craig Hodges who was sitting in the front row and played for Winter at Long Beach State and later cracked up the room by pointing at Ramsay and saying, quite clearly, "I'm older than this guy."
He also was quite gracious and grateful in his remarks for the Daly Award, released in a statement by the NABC.
"To receive an award like this from my peers is one of the highlights of my career," Winter said.
Still, the Naismith Hall of Fame continues to elude him. The conversation comes up every spring when the next class is unveiled as sure as "It's a Wonderful Life" appears on television every winter.
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And the conversation every spring unfortunately just so happens to be about Winter being snubbed, who has been nominated for induction seven times according to his son Chris, when the limit is supposed to be five.
"It's kind of embarrassing," Winter's son Chris said.
Kobe Bryant chose stronger words.
"It's the dumbest [expletive] I've ever heard," Bryant said in April when it was announced that, again, Winter had not made it. "They should just fire the whole [voting] panel.
"[His career] speaks for itself. It speaks for itself. Going back to college at Kansas State and then what he did in the pros, he was the one that brought the concept to Phil and we know what that dynasty did for the NBA and for basketball as a whole. And then coming here and doing it again ... I call him Yoda. He really taught me a lot. I know how Michael [Jordan] feels about him because we've talked about him a great deal, too. You can't overstate his significance to the game."
Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who was an assistant under Winter when he was a rookie head coach in the NBA with Houston, was just as direct with his call for Winter to make it to the hall back in April.
"For what he's contributed to the game of basketball, he should definitely be in the Hall of Fame," Hamblen said. The records he's had in college and being a part of 10 championship teams, he should definitely be in the Hall of Fame.
"He's been Phil's mentor all these years. Let alone the success that Phil's had, he was a major college coach, I don't think people understand that or realize that ... He was a basketball purist."
In April, Jackson said he has campaigned for Winter to be inducted as a coach in the past but said, "With Tex, there's no indication that there's a movement towards that [now].
"We did a really heavy one when I was in Chicago for a number of years and in fact I got a call from a person, knowing the people that sit in on the voting, and was actually told that, 'Tex is in this year, this is the year he's going to be in,' and he wasn't. So there have been many attempts over the years to drum up support. It just hasn't happened.
"Tex was brought there a few years ago as a contributor and honored and that's about as good as it's probably going to get in that regard which is unfortunate."
Chris Winter, a radio frequency engineer in Boston, was very emotional during the ceremony and near tears when speaking to reporters afterwards.
"One thing that I found after he had his stroke is I went to his apartment he had literally rooms and rooms of letters," he said. "I don't know if this is going to help his cause or not, but they all ask the same question: 'Why aren't you in the Hall of Fame?'
"So I think the people have spoken. Whether the Hall of Fame listens, I don't know."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.