By Greg Echlin FOXSportsKansasCity.com November 22, 2010
Ernie Barrett, better known as Mr. K-State with a statue in his honor sitting outside Bramlage Coliseum, was Tex Winter�s first recruit. Barrett finally saw the culminating moment he longed for Sunday night when he watched the former assistant and head basketball coach at Kansas State enter the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
With Winter as head coach, the K-State Wildcats went to the Final Four in 1958 and 1964. He was an assistant in ’51 under Jack Gardner when the Wildcats made it to their only first and only title game of the NCAA championship. With the emphasis on the triple-post offense, Winter later was part of six Chicago Bulls NBA championships as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson, and four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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Barrett has a hard time hearing these days at age 81. But he feels like he�s been dealing with deaf ears while trying to get inducted to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame for the last 30 years.
It didn�t stop him, however, from enjoying the past week leading up to Sunday night�s coronation in Kansas City. Winter, who at age 88 has moved in with his son Brian in Manhattan, was honored at halftime of the game between the Wildcats and Virginia Tech.
Because of a stroke Winter suffered in 2009 while attending the reunion of the 1958 Wildcats Final Four team, he�s limited to only a few words these days. So Barrett did the talking on his behalf at Bramlage.
�This is indeed a pleasure for me and a great honor to be out here with my coach from some 60 years ago. He has been magnificent,� he told the K-State crowd.
Sunday night at the College Basketball Experience news conference, Tex Winter got up to say, �Thank you very much,� before deferring to his other son, Chris, who said in a quivering voice, �Those of you who knew Dad know he�s one of the most unassuming people that ever lived. He can�t understand. Even before his stroke, he wouldn�t be able to understand why you would honor him this way. We�re all very honored. We�re all very proud.�
At the private reception afterward, Barrett added, �I question, because of the stroke, that he has a full appreciation for this award that normally he would have thought was extraordinary,� said Barrett. �I hate to say that because I know his sons and I have talked a lot about it.�
The night before some former Wildcat players gathered with Winter for an honorary dinner.
�Every one of them got up and made some comments about their experiences with Coach Winter when they were playing,� said Barrett. �He really got a big kick out of it. I could tell from watching him that he was excited about what he heard and he laughed an awful lot because he probably remembered what he had done with his former players.�
Barrett first met Winter in the late 1940s while at Wellington High School in south central Kansas.
�Not only did Coach Winter impress me, but he sold my parents on the fact that they were going to take care of me and make sure I got an education and played basketball,� said Barrett. �To be very candid about it, I didn�t even realize then that I would be going to college. My father worked for 36 years with the Santa Fe railroad and I just assumed that I would go to work with the Santa Fe.�
After his playing career at K-State, Barrett was a first-round draft choice by the Boston Celtics where he played for two seasons. Later as an administrator at K-State, Barrett had never forgotten what Winter meant to him. They visit regularly these days.
Until Winter is enshrined in Springfield, Barrett feels there�s still some unfinished business.