The Triangle Offense, a Simple Yet Perplexing System, Dies

Since the publication of Winters’s book, others have attempted to explain, clearly and concisely, what the Triangle entails. But many have gone mad in this pursuit; trying to do so is the basketball equivalent to gazing at the face of Medusa.

In 2014, Scott Cacciola of The New York Times provided a short primer, saying that the Triangle was “predicated on reading and exposing soft spots in the defense.” He continued:

“The triangle — and there is an actual triangle formed by the post, wing and corner players on the strong side of the court — revolves around seven guiding principles that include maintaining proper spacing (about 15 to 20 feet between players), penetration by passing and the interchangeability of positions. Every player ought to be able to score, and from different angles.”

In 2015, the writer Nicholas Dawidoff in these pages immersed himself in the “sacred text” that was Winters’s book. Part of his search for enlightenment included asking the basketball analyst Jay Williams — who played in the Triangle Offense while with the Chicago Bulls one season — to explain.

“You hand me a piece of paper and say, ‘Jay, define the Triangle for me,’ it’s kind of like a kid with Magic Markers drawing a cartoon. It’s all over the page. So many series of actions, I get lost trying to explain it. Now, give me four guys who know how to run it on the court, I can get out there and do it.”

Still, even the harshest critics had to acknowledge that Mr. Jackson had carried out the Triangle Offense to astounding effect during his long basketball career. As the coach for the Chicago Bulls and then for the Los Angeles Lakers, his insistence on running the Triangle paid off with a combined 11 N.B.A. titles.

(It is reported that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, of the Bulls, and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, of the Lakers, also played roles in those championships.)

When Mr. Jackson joined…

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