Only days before being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the architect of the Chicago Bulls Dynasty which won SIX NBA Titles in eight years passed away.
Jerry Krause was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 6, 1939. He played high school baseball as a catcher at Taft High School in Chicago and attended Bradley University. Interestingly, he wanted to be a sportswriter, but after deciding he was not cut out for it, he delved into other aspects of sports.
Although known for his basketball acumen, he spent years working in baseball. His first job in sports was as the General Manager of the AAA Portland Beavers. He was fired from that job in June 1966.
He went to work as a scout with the Baltimore Bullets. Early on, Krause gained a reputation of being able to eye talent. While with the Bullets, he urged the team to pick North Dakota forward Phil Jackson in the 1967 NBA draft. The Bullets did not draft him, but Krause continued to keep in touch during Jackson's playing career and into his first years as a coach.
After a few years with Baltimore, Krause worked as a scout with the Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls in the 1970s.
During the 1970s and 1980s, he served as a scout for various teams evaluating talent of minor league prospects throughout the country. Over the years he added scouting basketball prospects to his repertoire (at one time simultaneously scouting for both the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Cubs).
He left scouting briefly in 1976 he became the Director of Personnel for the Chicago Bulls. However, due to arguments with the front office, he left after 3 months; but went back to scouting (for the Seattle Mariners, a team that debuted in 1977).
While with the White Sox, the team changed hands. Jerry Reinsdorf, who owned the Chicago Bulls, took over and quickly took notice of Krause and hired him as General Manager in 1985 with the directive to build a contender. With his experience in finding talented players – especially young ones – he set out on his mission. Two of his first acquisitions were Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant (the Bulls had already contracted with Michael Jordan). He also later had the foresight to trade Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright – a usually unmentioned, but key piece to building the championship team.
His ability to find talent was not just limited to the hardcourt, it also extended to coaches. In 1987, he plucked Phil Jackson from relative obscurity, he was coaching a basketball team in Puerto Rico named the Piratas de Quebradilas, and hired him as assistant coach. When Krause fired Doug Collins in 1989, he promoted Jackson to head coach.
In 1987-88, the Bulls would have their first 50-win season since 1973-74. Krause won his first of two NBA Executive of the Year Awards. That year, the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference but lost to the Detroit Pistons. In what became a major rivalry, the Pistons defeated the Bulls in the playoffs again the next two seasons.
In the 1990–91 season, the Bulls recorded a then-franchise record 61 wins, and romped through the playoffs, where they swept the Knicks in the first round, defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the semifinals, and then sweeping the defending champion Pistons in the Conference Finals and won the NBA Finals in five games over the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bulls won their second straight title in 1992 after racking up another franchise record for wins with 67. They swept the Miami Heat in the first round, defeated the Knicks in seven games in the second round, then the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the third round, advancing to the Finals for the second year in a row where they defeated the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
In 1993, the Bulls won their third consecutive championship by defeating the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks in the first three rounds of the playoffs and then defeating regular-season MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the Finals, with Paxson's three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left giving them a 99–98 victory in Game 6 in Phoenix.
Following the season, Jordan decided to play baseball and the Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the New York Knicks, who they had beaten in the playoff the three previous years.
Jordan returned late in the 1994-95 season and helped the team reach the playoffs, but they lost to the Orlando Magic. In 1995-96, the team set a then-record by winning 72 games, won the championship, and Krause was named Executive of the Year.
The Bulls won the championship the next two years, completing their second three-peat. The team came apart before the 1998 season, however, in a large part due to friction between management, some of the players and Jackson. Jordan “retired,” Scottie Pippen went to Houston, Dennis Rodman went to Los Angeles, and Phil Jackson took a one-year sabbatical from coaching (returning afterward to lead the Lakers to five championships before he retired in 2011).
Michael Jordan has not held back his public disdain for Krause and blames him for breaking up the team. Both Jordan and Jackson were given executive positions later in their careers, and neither had success. Krause believed that Jordan was a great player, but a terrible judge of talent.
Although Krause stayed on as GM for another five years, the team failed to reach the playoffs. He left the Bulls organization in 2003 and turned his keen eyes back to baseball, becoming the International Scouting Director of the White Sox, and the Special Assistant to the General Manager. He is the only person to hold executive positions in both the MLB and the NBA.
He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 as a contributor.
Jerry Krause died on March 21, 2017.
[Last Updated: 4/21 by Aryeh Lev]
Sources: “Chicago Bulls,” Basketball-Reference.
R.J. Anderson, “How Jerry Krause, Before he Built a Dynasty with Michael Jordan, was Shaped by his Time in Baseball,” CBSSports.com, (May 11, 2020).
“Jerry Krause” Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Jerry Krause,” Basketball-Reference.
Chris Mannix, “Jerry Krause Deserved Better in the ‘Last Dance,’” SI.com, (May 18, 2020).
“Phil Jackson,” NBA.com.
Sean Deveneym, “With Hall of Fame Call, Jerry Krause Finally Gets Revenge on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson” SportingNews.com, (September 7, 2017).
“Chicago Bulls,” Wikipedia.
“Jerry Krause,” Wikipedia.