April 6, 1939
|Died||March 21, 2017(aged 77)|
|Alma mater||Bradley University|
|Occupation||Basketball executive and scout|
Jerome Krause (April 6, 1939 – March 21, 2017) was a professional basketball scout and general manager for, among other franchises, the Baltimore Bullets and the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He managed the Bulls to six NBA Championships and was a two-time recipient of the NBA's Executive of the Year award.
After college he went to work as a scout with the Baltimore Bullets. Early on Krause gained a reputation of being able to eye talent. He is credited by some for discovering future Hall of Famer Earl Monroe.
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. Their relationship flourished during the 1970s and 1980s; notably, when Jackson was coaching the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Association, Krause once called him requesting an analysis of the league's players, which Jackson provided in great detail.
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 before he left pro basketball to scout pro baseball instead. He was scouting for the Chicago White Sox when he received a call from new Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to join the Bulls as their new General Manager and once again work in pro basketball.
Jerry made a number of moves on being named GM that immediately began building the foundation for the team that would dominate the 1990s. He traded away undesirable players, turned over the Bulls roster and built up a collection of draft picks that would result in 2 significant additions to the team in 1987. Krause found two gems in the 1987 draft: Scottie Pippen, a small forward from the University of Central Arkansas; and Horace Grant, a power forward from Clemson. The two were, along with Jordan, cornerstones of the Bulls' 1991–1993 championship teams. They were also culled from relative hoops obscurity; this went back to Krause's strength for finding players who were not well-received or even known by mainstream scouts.
However, Krause also made many picks that did not help the team. In 1986, Krause planned on selecting a tall forward named Brad Sellers in the NBA Draft. Sellers, Krause reasoned, was too good a pick to pass up, as he handled the ball very well for a big man, and also had a solid outside jumper. Jordan, on the other hand, pushed management to take a two-way guard from Duke named Johnny Dawkins. It looked as though Krause would take Dawkins even as late as the morning of the draft; the coaches and players had made it clear that they wanted him and not Sellers, and Krause did not particularly have a problem with Dawkins' game. The Bulls' head coach at the time, Doug Collins, even told Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski the night before the draft that the team would pick Dawkins. However, Krause ignored everyone and picked Sellers anyway, and spent the summer trying to sell him to Jordan. Jordan went after Sellers mercilessly in practice, and Sellers was traded after three seasons. He played six total seasons in the NBA, averaging 6.3 points per game. Dawkins played for nine seasons in the NBA and averaged 11.1 points per game, though he did suffer from various injuries throughout his career.
Sellers was one of many Krause draft picks to underperform; others included Stacey King, Mark Randall, Will Perdue and Marcus Fizer. King and Perdue would serve as backup players on the Bulls' 1991–1993 Championship teams, but both players would later be traded away. During the 1993–94 NBA season, King was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for 7'2" Australian-born center Luc Longley. Longley's emergence for the Bulls during the 1994–95 season made Perdue expendable. Just before the start of the 1995–96 season, Perdue was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Dennis Rodman.
The Oakley trade
Krause made another transaction in 1988 to which Jordan strongly objected. It was clear that the Bulls needed a center if they were to contend for a title, so Krause dealt Charles Oakley to New York for Bill Cartwright. Oakley, who happened to be Jordan's best friend on the team, was extremely tough, particularly on the boards and on defense. When the Pistons came after Jordan with their physical players, Oakley was his bodyguard. Cartwright was a true center, unlike the power forward Oakley, but was much older. Although Cartwright did not have Oakley's reputation as a lockdown defender, he was very effective at preventing opposing centers from dominating games, and was a more capable inside scorer. Jordan despised the trade, not only because of the players involved but also because of how they learned of it: via television, while he and Oakley were on their way to Las Vegas to see a Mike Tyson fight. Cartwright turned out to be everything the Bulls needed, however, providing a presence in the middle for all three Bulls championships from 1991–1993. Perhaps most importantly, Cartwright proved to be the league's best center at defending Patrick Ewing, the New York Knicks' star who was the key player on the Bulls' most important early-1990s conference rival.
One of the most notable ways was demonstrated in the 1992 Olympics, when the Dream Team, including Jordan and Pippen, took on Croatia for the gold medal. The Croatia team featured Toni Kukoč, a young star whom Krause had discovered through European contacts and was courting to a degree that some of the Bulls found annoying. Jordan biographer David Halberstam said that Jordan and Pippen "seemed to play against Kukoc as if they had a vendetta", and that "in the end, it was as if they had been playing not against Kukoc but against Krause." Jordan would later be quoted as saying: "The trade of Oakley was good, and the best thing he did was to get Pippen and Grant. That's it. His claim to fame is that he drafted Earl Monroe for the Bullets. And I say to him, 'What pick was that?' He says, 'Two.' And I say, 'Hell! Earl Monroe was a real secret, huh? A real secret? If you hadn't taken him, he'd have gone third!'"
Jordan later admitted that he may have been wrong and Krause may have been right about the trade for Cartwright, but it changed nothing about Jordan's overall distrust and loathing for Krause. These feelings came to the surface in many different ways, including Jordan nicknaming Krause "Crumbs" in reference to his morbid obesity and slovenly appearance, as well as having doughnut residue on his clothes.
Rebuilding after the first retirement of Jordan
The first retirement of Jordan, following the 1993 NBA season, brought massive change to the Chicago Bulls roster. Krause attempted to replace Jordan with defensive specialist Pete Myers and free agent Ron Harper, but neither proved capable of leading Chicago to a championship, although Harper would play an invaluable role in the second "three-peat". Just before Jordan announced his retirement, Krause was finally able to persuade Kukoč to buy himself out of his European contract and join the Bulls. The 1993–94 Bulls made it to the conference semi-finals, where they lost to the New York Knicks in seven games. The Bulls had beaten the Knicks in the playoffs the three previous years.
When Jordan returned to the NBA at the end of the 1995 season, Krause once again went to work in assembling what has been labeled the best team in NBA history after offseason acquisition of Dennis Rodman from the Spurs. The Bulls won a then-NBA record 72 games and Krause was named Executive of the Year for the second time. The next year, they achieved a then second best-ever NBA season with 69 wins and repeated as champions.
"The Last Dance"
Krause and head coach Phil Jackson had been friends for years, but their relationship was, in Jackson's opinion, shattered early in the 1990s after Chicago Tribune reporter Sam Smith (whom Krause despised) published a book on the 1991 title team, The Jordan Rules. The book detailed the tension that already existed between Krause and the players, and ultimately drove a wedge between Krause and Jackson. Regardless of the success Jackson had as head coach of the Bulls, the tension between Jackson and Krause grew in the succeeding years, and by the 1997–98 season, was especially illustrated by the following incidents:
- During the summer of 1997, Krause's stepdaughter got married. All of the Bulls assistant coaches and their wives were invited to the wedding, as was Tim Floyd, then the head coach at Iowa State, whom Krause was openly courting as Jackson's successor (and who would eventually succeed Jackson). Jackson and his then wife, June, were not even told of the wedding, much less invited, only finding out about the event when the wife of Cartwright, who by that time had become a Bulls assistant, asked June what she would be wearing to the reception.
- After contentious negotiations between Jackson and the Bulls in that same period, Jackson was signed for the 1997–98 season only. Krause announced the signing in what Chicago media widely considered to be a mean-spirited manner, emphasizing that Jackson would not be rehired even if the Bulls won the 1997–98 title. That triggered an argument between Jackson and Krause in which Jackson essentially told Krause that he seemed to be rooting for the other side and not the Bulls. At that point, Krause told Jackson, "I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this year, you're fucking gone."
- Krause publicly portrayed Jackson as a two-faced character who had very little regard for his assistant coaches, a perception that certain Krause associates in the Bulls organization had sought to spread about Jackson. At the height of the hard feelings in the spring of 1998, one of Krause's scouts went to press row in Chicago's United Center to explain to a reporter the insidious nature of Jackson's ego (excerpt from the Phil Jackson biography Mindgames).
- On the eve of the 1998 season, Krause said his most famous, and most misquoted, statement: "Players and coaches alone don’t win championships. Organizations do," which was often paraphrased to “Organizations win championships." Years later in an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Krause clarified the statement, making "the point was that the Bulls were more than one great player," and he of course was right. The Bulls won championships four, five, and six not just because they had the best player but because they had the best second-best player and the best rebounder and the best sixth man and the best pure shooter and the best coach and, yes, the best general manager". Krause said that the championships were also due to his team "[having] the best marketers. The best trainers. The best salary cap guru," personnel who rarely got credit compared to players and coaches.
After the Bulls' final title of the Jordan era in 1998, Jackson left the team vowing never to coach again, but after he took a year off he decided to give it another chance with the Lakers. Longtime friend of Krause and Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter, who was the architect of the triangle offense, stayed with the Bulls for another full season, leaving the organization in the summer of 1999, when Phil Jackson was hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. Krause said that he had not spoken to Jackson since. When Jordan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, Krause was not in attendance. Krause said he would not attend the ceremony because of his personal boycott of the Hall of Fame over their refusal to induct Winter. Krause and Jackson briefly put their differences aside when Winter was finally inducted two years later. The two shook hands before the ceremony and conducted themselves in a cordial manner during Winter's segment.
In fairness to Krause, Jackson "never did the legwork, the scouting, the recruiting, all the things that the two Jerrys -- Krause and West -- did for him in Chicago and Los Angeles. The league moved too fast for Jackson, and he never showed any desire to catch up. If you're thinking that Phil might have newfound respect for the jobs done by the two Jerrys, especially the late Krause, whom he regularly mocked while the Bulls were winning six titles, think again". Krause remarked when Jackson become President of the New York Knicks that "Phil didn't take the job because he thought he had a playoff club. He took the job for the money".
Deciding that the Bulls were aging and facing an uncertain future, Krause chose to unload the veterans and rebuild. Few major players were added though (other than from drafts).
The draft brought prolific collegiate players such as Elton Brand, Ron Artest, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford, and Jay Williams to the Bulls but it would be the 2001 draft that stood out. After finishing 15–67 during the 2000–2001 season, Krause decided to gamble and trade away his best player in Brand for high schooler Tyson Chandler who was hyped as "the next Kevin Garnett", and draft another high schooler in Eddy Curry who, similarly, was hyped as a slightly smaller version of Shaquille O'Neal, with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Krause believed that the tandem of Chandler and Curry would develop into elite players and provide the foundation for another dynasty. A mid-season trade the following year brought scorer Jalen Rose to the Bulls in exchange for Brad Miller and Artest which cleared playing time for the two rookies. After drafting Jay Williams during the offseason, the Bulls had a roster with Rose, Crawford, Curry, Chandler, Williams, and Fizer that fulfilled Krause's dream of a talented young athletic team. The Bulls showed some improvement the following year.
In 2003, Krause retired as GM. The official explanation involved obesity related health problems. The Bulls fell to 23–59 in the next season, and Krause's dream of a talented young athletic team imploded with all of his acquisitions traded or out of the league within three years. Curry has had success in the league, but perhaps has not lived up to the lofty expectations that Krause had. Meanwhile, former players Brand, Miller, Artest, and Chandler became All-Stars for their new teams.
Krause went back to his roots and worked briefly for the New York Yankees baseball team as a scout, before joining the New York Mets in 2005. In 2010, he rejoined the Chicago White Sox as a scout, a position he had held in the 1970s and 80s. He was appointed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a special assistant in its scouting department on April 1, 2011. On March 21, 2017, Krause died from battling health issues, at the age of 77.
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- "The Chicago White Sox hire former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause to oversee scouting system in Dominican Republic". Sports.espn.go.com. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
- Gilbert, Steve "D-backs hire Krause as special assistant", MLB.com, Friday, April 1, 2011