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Jerry Krause: Bulls Dynasty Architect
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Jerry Krause, the architect behind the Chicago Bulls' dynasty in the 1990s, was a respected but often underappreciated NBA executive whose legacy remains controversial among fans.

Early Scouting Career

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Jerry Krause was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He played high school baseball as a catcher at Taft High School before attending Bradley University. Although he initially wanted to be a sportswriter, Krause instead began his career working as a scout for various professional baseball and basketball teams in the 1960s and 1970s. His first job in sports was as the General Manager of the AAA Portland Beavers baseball team. He then worked as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets, where he urged the team to draft Phil Jackson in 1967, and later scouted for the Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls. Krause also spent many years scouting for MLB teams like the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox in the 1970s and early 1980s.
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Jerry Krause's Basketball Focus

Jerry Krause's early career included stints as a scout for both professional baseball and basketball teams. He worked for several MLB organizations, including the Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Chicago White Sox in the 1970s and early 1980s. During his time with the White Sox, Krause played a role in the signing of Ozzie Guillén and Kenny Williams, who would later lead the team to a World Series championship in 2005 as manager and general manager, respectively. While scouting for the Mariners, Krause simultaneously worked part-time as a basketball scout for the Los Angeles Lakers. His transition to focusing primarily on basketball occurred when he joined the Chicago Bulls as General Manager in 1985. Krause's experience scouting in both sports helped shape his keen eye for talent and his ability to identify players who could contribute to building a winning team.
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Krause's Championship Roster Moves

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Here are some of the key moves and decisions Jerry Krause made to build the Chicago Bulls dynasty:
  • Traded for Bill Cartwright in 1988, giving the Bulls a reliable center to complement Michael Jordan and allowing young forwards Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant to develop.
  • Hired Phil Jackson as head coach in 1989, despite Jackson's lack of head coaching experience at the time. Jackson's triangle offense and management of egos were crucial to the team's success.
  • Drafted European star Toni Kukoc in the second round in 1990 when other teams passed on him. Kukoc became a key sixth man during the second three-peat.
  • Traded Will Perdue for Dennis Rodman in 1995, adding a fierce rebounder and defender to help the Bulls get past the Orlando Magic and win three more titles.
  • Assembled a strong supporting cast with excellent role players like John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong, and Steve Kerr who complemented the talents of Jordan and Pippen.
Krause's shrewd talent evaluation, creative trades and signings, and hiring of Phil Jackson built a dynasty that won six NBA championships in the 1990s. His vision and boldness in making unconventional moves were essential in constructing one of the greatest teams in NBA history around superstar Michael Jordan.
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Bulls' Season-by-Season Krause Era

Here is a brief overview of the Chicago Bulls' season-by-season results during Jerry Krause's tenure as general manager:
SeasonResult
1985-8630-52 record, missed playoffs
1986-8740-42 record, lost in first round
1987-8850-32 record, lost in second round
1988-8947-35 record, lost in Eastern Conference Finals
1989-9055-27 record, lost in Eastern Conference Finals
1990-9161-21 record, won NBA Championship
1991-9267-15 record, won NBA Championship
1992-9357-25 record, won NBA Championship
1993-9455-27 record, lost in second round
1994-9547-35 record, lost in second round
1995-9672-10 record, won NBA Championship
1996-9769-13 record, won NBA Championship
1997-9862-20 record, won NBA Championship
Under Krause's leadership, the Bulls steadily improved, going from a losing team to a perennial contender. The drafting of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, the hiring of Phil Jackson as head coach, and key trades for players like Bill Cartwright and Dennis Rodman were pivotal moves that helped build a dynasty around Michael Jordan. The Bulls won six NBA titles during the 1990s, cementing their status as one of the greatest teams in league history. Krause's roster moves and talent evaluation were instrumental in the team's sustained success throughout the decade.
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Personal Traits and Work Ethic

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Jerry Krause was renowned for his tireless work ethic and keen eye for talent. As a scout at heart, he relied on his instincts and deep knowledge of the game to identify promising players. Krause's dedication to his craft was legendary - he would leave no stone unturned in his search for the next star, scouting players from all levels of competition. However, Krause's personality often clashed with those around him. He was sensitive about his appearance and height, with some describing him as having a "little man problem." Players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen mocked Krause's weight and the donut residue often found on his lapels, nicknaming him "Crumbs." This contributed to the tense relationships Krause had with many of the Bulls' star players and coaches. Despite the personal animosity, Krause's colleagues still respected his work ethic, drive, and loyalty to the Bulls organization.
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The Phil Jackson Relationship

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Jerry Krause and Phil Jackson had a complex relationship that deteriorated over time, contributing to the breakup of the Bulls dynasty. Krause initially recommended Jackson to the Bulls and the two were friends for many years.
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However, their relationship soured in the 1990s, exacerbated by the book The Jordan Rules which detailed tension between Krause and the players. Before the 1997-98 season, Krause told Jackson he would not be re-signed even if the Bulls went 82-0, a decision that infuriated Michael Jordan. Krause's now-infamous quote that "organizations win championships" rather than players was seen as a slight towards Jackson and Jordan. After the Bulls' sixth title in 1998, Jackson declined a long-term offer from owner Jerry Reinsdorf to rebuild the team, effectively ending his tenure as Bulls head coach. The deterioration of Krause and Jackson's relationship was a key factor in the dissolution of the Bulls dynasty.
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Krause's Complicated Bulls Legacy

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nytimes.com
Jerry Krause's legacy as the architect of the Chicago Bulls dynasty is a complicated one. While he is widely credited with assembling the roster that won six NBA championships in the 1990s, his tenure was also marked by conflicts with star players and coaches that have left a lasting negative impression. Krause's contentious relationship with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen was well-documented. The players mocked his appearance and felt he was trying to take too much credit for the team's success. His decision to let Phil Jackson go after the 1997-98 season and his infamous "organizations win championships" quote further soured his image in the eyes of many fans. However, many within the basketball community have come to Krause's defense in recent years, recognizing his undeniable contributions to building the Bulls dynasty. His shrewd talent evaluation and roster moves brought together the pieces that complemented Jordan's singular greatness. Coaches and executives have praised Krause's work ethic, loyalty, and dedication to the craft of team-building. Despite the lingering bitterness from some fans, there is a growing appreciation for Krause's role in creating one of the greatest teams in NBA history. His posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017 was a recognition of his impact on the game. While his interpersonal conflicts shaped perceptions during his lifetime, Krause's legacy as a relentless scout and team architect is becoming more secure with time.
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Closing Thoughts

Despite the boos from Bulls fans at a recent ceremony, many respected NBA figures like Gregg Popovich have come to Krause's defense, recognizing his immense contributions to building a championship roster around Michael Jordan. While Krause's conflicts with players and coaches often overshadowed his accomplishments in the eyes of fans, his impact is undeniable. Krause's eye for talent, tireless work ethic, and bold roster moves were essential to the Bulls' success. From drafting Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant to trading for key pieces like Dennis Rodman, Krause consistently found the right complementary players. His ability to retool the roster on the fly between the two three-peats was particularly impressive. The Bulls' sustained excellence throughout the 1990s is a testament to Krause's team-building skills. Six championships in eight years, with a then-record 72 regular-season wins in 1995-96, cemented the Bulls' status as a dynasty for the ages. While the breakup of the team after the sixth title was messy and controversial, the Bulls' accomplishments under Krause's leadership remain legendary. As time passes and emotions settle, Krause's legacy as one of the greatest executives in NBA history is becoming more secure. His posthumous Hall of Fame induction was a fitting recognition of his immense impact on the game. For Bulls fans, appreciating the championships Krause helped deliver may one day outweigh the lingering bitterness over the dynasty's dissolution.
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