clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Everybody Knows Tex Winter Invented the Triangle Offense After Seeing the Talking Heads at CBGB

And now the Triangle is back

It was a matinee show with Television. What a time to be alive. The streets were full of trash, and the city was in financial crisis. Cigarettes were so cheap, bodegas would pay you to take ’em off their hands, and a New York City tradition was born. Who among us could forget the classic tabloid headline: “FORD TO CITY: ‘THE TRIANGLE ISN’T A MODERN OFFENSE.’”

Some people think the Triangle was invented by USC coach Sam Barry in the 1940s. This is a common mistake. Tex Winter saw the Talking Heads play a 10-minute version of “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” and the Triangle was born. Since then, it has been a New York institution. When you think of the Knicks, when you think of New York City, you think of the Triangle. Bagels, Stephen Sondheim musicals, Central Park, graffiti, and the weakside two-man game. That’s the Big Apple to me. And now the Big Apple basketball team is getting back to its core.

The Triangle is back. What was the first classic Knicks Triangle moment you thought of when you read this tweet? For me, it was the memory of Kenny “Sky” Walker passing out of the high post. For some, it’s legendary Knicks coaches like Derek Fisher and Herb Williams calling timeouts to make sure their teams understood the specific 15-to-18-foot spacing players needed between one another. Remember when the Knicks ran the Triangle under Pat Riley? That was cool. What about when the Knicks ran the Triangle with Jared Jeffries, Steve Francis, and Eddy Curry? Classic Triangle. 2007 was a great year, partially because Michael Clayton came out then, but mostly because the Knicks were running the Triangle. Remember the Knicks-Heat brawl of 1998?

Little-known fact: It was all because Alonzo Mourning was making fun of the Triangle. And Larry Johnson was like, “Hey, man. The Triangle is a New York City intellectual landmark and part of our basketball heritage, and I take umbrage at you disparaging it!”

It’s bigger than the Knicks. When you go to The Cage or The Rucker, what do you see? That’s right. Guys making sure they are getting in the low post, corner, and wing positions of the classic Triangle set. Heaven is a playground!

Some folks think endless evenings trying to diagram the Triangle is what drove David Berkowitz mad. Who can say? Phil Jackson has lived in New York City every day of his life. He’s never left. He loves it there. He lives in a secret apartment above the Grand Central Oyster Bar and at night he goes into the subway tunnels of the city and draws up Triangle plays on the train cars. Then he comes home and drinks a Manhattan and says, “I’m the hero this city needs.”

For a few years, the Knicks got away from what made them a multiple-title-winning NBA dynasty. They played some faux-Phoenix stuff, and got distracted by flashes in the pan like Kristaps Porzingis. What’s important is that the Knicks get back to what won them all those titles in the first place: Ron Baker, running patient half-court basketball that relies on post passing and gets high-percentage shots for a player on the block. I miss the old New York. Thank god (De Blasio) it’s back.