Jim O'Donnell: Reinsdorf's haunted Bulls can't even properly stage a ‘night of happy’

NO ONE AT THE UNITED CENTER Friday night was booing Thelma Krause.

It'd be nice if the media simpletons attempting to report on the unveiling of the Bulls' new “Ring of Honor” had gotten the context of that reality correct.

But the majority of those sycophants lacks the depth of knowledge of the history of the organization. They don't know the full pettiness and devious agenda behind the gratuitous breakup of a defending NBA champion — a rare global treasure — by Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf in 1997-98.

Friday night, they got a direct hit about the rightful indignation that lingers to this day over that staggering desecration.

A THANKFULLY VOCAL PHALANX of passionate, informed Bulls fans rained on a very poorly executed special event by a franchise profitable despite its ongoing competitive mediocrity.

Anyone in the Bulls front office involved in the planning of the event should have had a strong suspicion that any mention of Krause's name was going to prompt loud booing.

And that's the way it should be. The more committed and sophisticated the Bulls fan, the more he or she cringes at the mention of Krause and Reinsdorf and recall of what they so grievously destroyed.

Why then would Mrs. Krause be positioned to be the object of so much of that eternal frustration and anger?

Is current Bulls management really that stupid?

THE FACT THAT MICHAEL JORDAN would be a no-show should have sent an unmistakable message to team planners that the bitter memories of that unnecessary break-up still summon massive emotion.

Consider, that for Jordan to simply make a cameo, he would have to have been driven by limo to a private jet somewhere in the southeast.

He would have had to walk about 80 feet to the jet. He would have landed in a private area at Midway Airport less than three hours later. He would have then limoed to the UC, been dropped off deep in the underground belly (where he used to park) and walk out to a thunderous ovation at halftime.

If he wanted, he could be back where he started less that four hours later.

Total time commitment: Less than 12 hours with near zero outside exposure to the harsh Chicago winter.



Because one of the great holes in his soul remains the fact that the chance to go for a seventh NBA crown was yanked out from under him by the cash-flow imperiousness of Reinsdorf and the venal bobo-ism of Krause.

There will never be a way to accurately gauge how many more championships Jordan's Bulls could have won from 1985-91, when Krause was on comfortable scholarship learning how to be a NBA personnel executive.

And from 1997 forward — who knows?

By providing a brief video that might have taken 23 minutes to shoot, Jordan did the bare minimum to show some degree of respect and civility for all that he and his fellow foxholers fought to overcome en route to the amazing zenith of six championships.

KRAUSE NEVER SHOULD have been a face of the franchise as general manager once Reinsdorf and partners took over the team in March 1985.

As the mythic Red Auerbach said in a 2001 conversation: “Jerry (Reinsdorf) should have kept his wizard behind a curtain. It would have saved him a lot of grief.”

Instead, like a playground brute torturing a one-wing fly, Reinsdorf put Krause out in front. Krause then went out of his way to aggressively alienate large chunks of media along with some players and coaches. Most importantly, he induced Jordan to absolutely loathe him.

(“Me and 'Crumbs,'” as Michael so famously said, “We keep our distance.”)

THAT LOATHING REACHED CRITICAL MASS rather quickly. It first reached crescendo in a bizarre midnight press conference at Reinsdorf's north suburban business headquarters in March 1986.

That was the evening when much wrangling went on backstage about whether Jordan was returning to play that season after breaking his left foot four months before at Golden State.

During that verbal tussling, Krause — according to then-head coach Stan Albeck, who was also in attendance — uttered the unconscionable line to No. 23: “We own you.”

To this day, Jordan has never forgotten the hurtful insensitivity of that statement. It was made to a 23-year-old Black fellow who grew up in Wilmington, N.C., a city with a reprehensible racist past. (For further study, see “Wilmington Massacre of 1898.”)

FOR THE FOLLOWING 12 YEARS, Jordan had to put on as happy a public face as possible regarding Krause. Ditto for Jordan's professed respect for Reinsdorf's scorched-scoreboard capitalism.

The underpinning for all of that was because of his lucrative endorsement portfolio. Jordan could never publicly deviate from the image of the ultra-cool, all-inclusive “Be Like Mike” basketball space jammer. He was, and remains, supremely diligent of protecting that consumer perception.

That's why he's worth an estimated $3 billion and counting.

SO FRIDAY NIGHT, the mention and overhead image of Jerry Krause at the United Center brought down a predictable cascade of boos at a profoundly ill-organized event.

That sound was tremendous, refreshing, more validation of “The Curse of the Breakup,” the basketball karma that will prevent the Bulls from winning another NBA title as long as Reinsdorf is anywhere near the controls.

Sob stooges including Chuck Swirsky and Jason Goff and Stacey King and wandering Babbitt K.C. Johnson immediately condemned the “booing” of Thelma Krause, either on air or on social media.

All, of course, are also on some associated Reinsdorf-influenced payroll. The catch-all grouping would be “toadies.”

BUT THE BRIGHTEST OF FANS at the UC were not unleashing wrath at a lady who was in a very poorly plotted spotlight at a very wrong time.

They were telling the malevolent spirit of Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf a simple, enduring NBA Chicago bromide:

“From Don Kojis and Wolfgang Mueller to Bobby Weiss and Dennis Awtrey to Randy Brown and Jud Buechler to Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich and Alex Caruso, the most impassioned Bulls fans never, ever forget.”

MICHAEL JORDAN ONCE SOARED to an astonishing level of theatrical basketball greatness.

He took a whole lot of people — some deserving, some not — along with him.

His pot o' thanks at the end of the Krause-Reinsdorf rain blow was to be cast off like a 17th-round draft pick.

Friday night's boos were merely a way for more textured fans to express their supreme disgust at the ensuing quarter century of diminishment and at the two men who caused it.

It was a resounding moment of triumph for the common Bulls fan.

Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

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