Winter in December of career
Tex Winter is in his 63rd year of earning a basketball-related paycheck. It’s probably his last.
The longtime Lakers consultant and the modern-day architect of the triangle offense said he didn’t expect to return next season because of health issues.
Winter, 87, has been battling shingles since late 2007, making next season seem less and less likely.
“I’m getting too old,” he said, smiling. “At one time I thought I would [return], but I’m not sure anymore. I would feel a whole lot better about it if I didn’t have these shingles. It’s really taken me downhill. The thing I don’t want to become is too much of a distraction if my health doesn’t hold up.”
One thing Winter has never been called is a distraction.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has lobbied numerous times for Winter to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, to no avail. (Winter has been recognized by the Hall of Fame with a lifetime achievement award but has not officially been elected into its membership.)
As per his contract, Winter is with the Lakers two weeks every month, which limits the time he can spend with his wife, Nancy, at their residence in Portland, Ore.
“It makes it tough on her and on me and everybody else too,” he said.
Winter, who got his first coaching gig as an assistant at Kansas State shortly after World War II, still has plenty of thoughts on the Lakers’ playoff possibilities, emphasizing the importance of team play.
“I think that Kobe [Bryant] is going to have to involve his teammates more,” Winter said. “When he doesn’t score, just like that game against Memphis, he was third or fourth in scoring and we win big. Maybe that’s not the greatest yardstick, but it’s an indication to me that it’s still a team game, and I think that’s the way we’ve got to play. If we can get these other guys involved, they’ll come through.”
Winter, in his ninth season with the Lakers, was concerned about the play of some of their reserves.
“I’d like to see some of our substitute guards come through a little better,” he said. “Jordan Farmar and Sasha [Vujacic] both have had a real struggle.”
Winter also said he hoped Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would find the rhythm they had before Bynum went down with a knee injury.
“That’s going to be kind of tricky,” he said. “Sometimes they take up too much space in the lane. They crowd each other.”
Winter definitely still has a sense of humor. When asked jokingly if he strung up the peach basket in the first game of basketball, he answered quickly.
“No,” he said. “But I was the guy that held the ladder.”
Shannon Brown again was the first guard off the Lakers’ bench Tuesday against Utah, continuing to take minutes away from Farmar.
Jackson spoke to Farmar about it, emphasizing the need for him to be effective in five- to six-minute spurts instead of, say, eight- to 10-minute bursts.
“We’ve talked a little bit about shortening his minutes . . . but we’re still really counting on him to come out there and give us that kind of energy,” Jackson said.
Brown had nine points and two assists in nearly 20 minutes. Farmar had five points and three assists in just under 17 minutes.