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Scott Howard-Cooper

Jerry Krause
Jerry Krause listens to Bulls' owner Jerry Reinsdorf in 1998.
Jonathan Daniel/NBAE/Getty Images

Krause: Assembler of Chicago title teams makes HOF ballot


Posted Nov 18 2011 9:48PM

Jerry Krause had always been the one impossible to miss. He was the Bulls chief of basketball operations turned into an unfortunate caricature by Michael Jordan, and guess who was going to win that popularity contest, and a jousting opponent for Phil Jackson, and ditto. Krause's secret-agent routine, sitting far from colleagues on scouting missions, became so comical that the attempt to remain out of view had the opposite effect.

So how strange that he had become the overlooked one. Jordan is in the Hall of Fame, Jackson is in the Hall of Fame, Scottie Pippen is in the Hall of Fame, Dennis Rodman is in the Hall of Fame, Tex Winter is in the Hall of Fame -- all since 2007 -- and the man who did the actual assembling of the Chicago title teams has been left out.

Maybe that changes now that Krause has been nominated for the Class of 2012 in Springfield, Mass. Maybe it doesn't because predicting the mood of the two voting bodies that decide induction is an impossibility, but at least he has finally gotten this long-overdue first step of making the ballot.

A maximum of 10 candidates from the North American Committee can advance to the finalist stage from a list highlighted by Reggie Miller, Bernard King, Don Nelson, Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Mark Jackson among the many with strong NBA ties. The survivors of that round of cuts are announced at All-Star weekend in February. Another election by a separate group follows before the inductees are unveiled at the Final Four.

Krause is on the ballot for the first time, and the secret society of voters have shown an inclination to make all but home owners at the highest reaches of Mt. Olympus wait. Miller didn't even make finalist last February as a rookie. Rodman endured the same fate as a newcomer in 2010, then sprang all the way to enshrinement in '11.

Good thing about Krause, then. He has always been unique.

He spent 16 years as a baseball scout with the Indians, A's, Mariners and White Sox before the talent evaluation turned to basketball. From there, the Chicago native would have a major role in shaping a powerhouse in his own hometown without ever attaining close to the same level of popularity. Or, were a poll to be taken at the time, probably any level of popularity.

He was, shall we say, no threat to Pat Riley in the glam department. Jordan skewered Krause for it, partly because that's life with locker-room chatter, partly because MJ would be merciless like that with anyone. Jackson shaped Krause as one of the forces for the Bulls to conquer, but then again, Jackson would also later kick Jerry West out of the Lakers locker room.

Two forces of nature -- arguably the greatest player in history and arguably the greatest coach in history, both adept at working the media, both willing to humiliate -- positioned Krause as a detriment and a slovenly buffoon. There was no coming back from that. They were sleek and dominating, he was overweight, wore rumbled clothes with the tie askew and left enough reminders of the recent meal that Jordan tagged him as Crumbs. It didn't help that Krause sparred with some in the media, another influential enemy.

What did help?

Six championships.

He inherited Jordan, obviously a good starting point. But Krause flipped Olden Polynice for Pippen on draft night. He traded for Bill Cartwright, Luc Longley and Rodman. He signed Ron Harper, John Paxson, Scott Williams, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington. He drafted Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong, Will Perdue. He hired Jackson.

By summer 2011, the perspective had changed enough to where media members were openly campaigning for a Krause induction and Jackson and Krause, at the request of Winter, met briefly and shared a friendly moment before Tex's ceremony. Krause so believed in the Winter candidacy that for years he refused to have anything to do with the Hall in protest of the induction that had yet to come, but on that night, he and his wife sat two seats from Jackson and his girlfriend and a thaw was in the air.

"He made a great contribution to basketball with his picks and his putting together of a team," Jackson told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Now, it may lead to the ultimate Krause vindication -- his own induction. Now he may still be impossible to miss.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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