The bond between coach Tex Winter and writer Roland Lazenby has to be about as persistent, meaningful and honest as any in basketball.
And today, as the 87-year-old coach struggles after a stroke, Lazenby writes a must-read post on his Lakernoise blog about Winter. Here's just one poignant part:
As Tex lies in a Kansas hospital fighting for his life after a stroke, I hope NBA people stop and contemplate just what he has meant to them, meant to the game. I hope all the players who ever played for him stop and think about what his honesty did for the game itself.
Ditto for the coaches who gained so much from association with him.
I hope they stop and think today about Tex's honesty.
And while I'm offering that advice for everyone else, I'm going to try and take a bit of it myself. Tex spent a lot of time trying to educate me. I'm sure he often thought I was a lost cause, but he never lost patience with me.
The things he told me often got him into trouble. And team "officials" were always trying to get him not to tell me the things he did. But he never wavered in the face of that pressure.
The truth has a sting to it, a deeply burning sting. Tex knew that. He knew that when he said certain things, it was going to cost him.
The great irony of his life is that if he hadn't told the truth, he might have played the political games that made it much easier to get into the Hall of Fame. But if he hadn't been such a truth-teller, Tex wouldn't have been so deserving of Hall of Fame recognition. And, boy, is he ever deserving.
Yes, he was a great coach, and his old-school triangle offense has defined success in the modern game of hoops.
But his primary product was the truth.
And so, Tex Winter is simply too good for the Hall of Fame. It's a place populated with frauds and credit-takers.
Tex is in another Hall of Fame, one a million times more exclusive and far more important. He's in the truth-tellers Hall of Fame, where the population is only the very few truly good ones.