Blogtable: One thing you'll always remember about Jerry Krause?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Former Bulls GM Jerry Krause died this week at 77. What is the one thing you will always remember about Krause?
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David Aldridge: The Orioles. Krause told me once (and, I’m sure, others), that the Baltimore Orioles of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, which won three World Series and six American League pennants, were the standard he was trying to reach in Chicago with the Bulls — a team that was a contender for more than a decade, built by Harry Dalton and Frank Cashen, and maintained by their successor, Hank Peters.
But Krause did better, building a dynasty that won six NBA titles in eight seasons — and would have gone eight for eight in all likelihood had Michael Jordan not taken his baseball sabbatical. As Krause was, at his heart, a baseball scout, it was fitting. And it exemplified the remarkable career Krause had in pro sports — he was a baseball scout, before and after his run in Chicago. As Jerry was short and fat and loathed media attention, he was an easy foil for his athletic and famous players, as well as Phil Jackson, who’d won championships as a player with the Knicks, and was more intellectual than Krause.
But it was Krause that brought all those Alpha Males together, in support of the Ultimate Alpha — Jordan, who was already there when Krause took over as GM for Rod Thorn. It’s easy to say that Jordan could have won with anybody, but he didn’t start winning big until Krause got there, trading for the rights to Scottie Pippen and drafting Horace Grant with the 10th pick in the first round in 1987, following that up by dealing Jordan’s close friend Charles Oakley to the Knicks a year later for center Bill Cartwright, and promoting Jackson to coach in 1989. MJ moaned and complained about just about all of those moves, but Krause made the right calls on all of those moves — and after Jordan’s return to the NBA, built another championship team around him with Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc and Steve Kerr. Jerry Krause wasn’t as refined as some, but he knew how people worked, and the proof is in all those banners and retired jerseys in United Center.
Steve Aschburner: Krause’s appearance was iconic in its own way, and his gruff demeanor and unplanned role as the Bulls’ in-house antagonist during their championship run in the 1990s were unforgettable. But I’ll mostly remember my introduction to Krause in the early 1980s. He was heading up the scouting department for the Chicago White Sox, I was covering the Milwaukee Brewers (yeah, in another lifetime) and he was affable and relaxed in small talk. I was no threat to reveal any of his treasured inside info, mostly because he wasn’t offering any. Of course that meeting was of zero value a dozen years later when I was coming around as an NBA writer and the Bulls were doing their work around the league. Krause’s love of talent evaluation and his rare ability to do that across sports will stick with me.
Fran Blinebury: That he never fully got the credit for assembling those great Bulls teams and Michael Jordan cruelly disrespected him.
Scott Howard-Cooper: That he was one of the under-appreciated executives of his time, and maybe of any time. Michael Jordan, among others, liked to use the nickname “Crumbs” because Krause was often disheveled and left food behind on his shirt while Phil Jackson would position his own front office as another opponent in an attempt to unify the locker room. Good luck winning a popularity contest in Chicago when the great player and the great coach use you as target practice. But make no mistake. Krause was a star among general managers and played a huge role in the Bulls becoming a basketball machine. He is not merely deserving of being elected to the Hall of Fame. He is the more deserving than anyone with an NBA or ABA background currently nominated.
Shaun Powell: He was a paranoid scout, always secretive with his peers (he’d check into hotels under an assumed name and seldom hung out with fellow GMs) and distrustful of the media and somewhat thin-skinned. Krause always worried about someone else scouting “His Guy”. None of that should take away from his track record as a talent scout (Krause started in baseball before moving on to basketball). Getting Scottie Pippen and trading for Bill Cartwright helped Chicago win titles for Jordan, the only player Krause wasn’t responsible for.
John Schuhmann: The legacy of a general manager are the decisions he makes, and Krause’s legacy will be defined by his decision to swap picks with the Sonics and draft Scottie Pippen out of Central Arkansas in 1987. Krause drafted, signed and traded for other key contributors to the Bulls’ six championships, but his ability as a talent evaluator can’t be questioned when he aggressively went after and picked, out of the NAIA, a guy who would become one of the best players in NBA history.
Sekou Smith: Krause clearly had a keen eye for talent and a unique understanding of team-building that produced brilliant results (it always helps to start the building process with the all-time best materials — MJ — already in place). Krause’s steadfast belief that it’s organizations, and not necessarily players that win championships will always stick out to me. We’ll never know for sure in the case of the Bulls, since Phil Jackson is the only member of that championship dynasty core to taste championship level success apart from the others.
Ian Thomsen: I happened to be covering the 1993 European Final Four in Athens when I saw Krause meeting in the hotel restaurant with Toni Kukoc, who would sign with the Bulls the following season. Krause was so angry with me for reporting on his secret rendezvous — but then he apologized for his outburst the next day. He had a way of making things harder than they had to be — don’t we all? — resulting in less respect for him than his results deserved. But if you were to ask anybody who benefited from Krause’s management of the Bulls, including Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, they would have to admit that Krause’s eccentricities were a small price to pay for so much success.
Lang Whitaker: I’m not old enough to have been covering the league during Krause’s heyday. But the one story that came to mind was from a “Dream Team” story that I wrote a while back. Jordan and Pippen were tired of hearing about this prospect named Toni Kukoc that Krause had uncovered in Europe. By the time Team USA played Croatia, Jordan and Pippen were so ready to prove how the pecking order should go. “You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey?” Karl Malone recalled. “We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room, because they was damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.” They shut down Kukoc in that game, but Kukoc eventually arrived in Chicago and proved himself to be a key part of the Bulls dynasty. And I think history acquitted Krause’s scouting acumen pretty well.
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