Tex Winter was the architect of the triangle offense that helped Phil Jackson win 11 rings. He says Michael Jordan gained a lot by playing at UNC.
Unlike a lot of other GOAT candidates, the consensus GOAT was not a highly-tipped high school player. Jordan was not even the no. 1 high school player in North Carolina. His legend only began truly forming once he went to UNC and played for the Tar Heels under Dean Smith.
Smith was a famous proponent of the ‘Four Corners’ concept offense in college basketball. Coaches would be incensed when he let some of the greatest college players ever run out clock by standing in the corner.
But with time, coach Dean Smith adapted his offense to a more modern system (for that era). It was nothing as intricate as the triangle offense later run by Winter himself. But it was a system that emphasized ball movement and other fundamental offensive principles.
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Tex Winter praises Dean Smith’s role in the making of Michael Jordan
Winter coached for a long time in college basketball – 30 years, in fact – before making the NBA as an assistant coach. During his time in college basketball, he’d coached numerous products who went on to become coaches themselves.
One of those players was Bill Guthridge, who went on to become Dean Smith’s assistant – years later. Guthridge was able to influence Smith to move away from the more traditional Four Corner offense and instill a more systemic offense.
Years later, this would benefit Winter in his role as the Bulls’ assistant coach. Because he’d have at his disposal a Michael Jordan completely well-versed and ready to play a more off-ball role. This is why Winter praised Smith in a 2008 interview:
“If Michael Jordan hadn’t played for Dean Smith, he wouldn’t have been as good of a team player as he was.”