Former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause dies

  • Former Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause has died at the age of 77.

    Former Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause has died at the age of 77. Associated Press

Updated 3/21/2017 8:09 PM

Jerry Krause was not the face of the championship-era Chicago Bulls, but he was an integral part of the team's six championships in the 1990s.

The permanent homage to the dynasty hangs from the rafters of the United Center, with four retired names -- Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, coach Phil Jackson and general manager Jerry Krause.


Krause died Tuesday at 77 after a series of health problems.

"The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause," chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Jerry was one of the hardest working guys I have ever been around, and he was one of the best talent evaluators ever.

"Jerry played an integral role in our run of six championships in eight years. He truly was the architect of all our great teams in the '90s. I would not have been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame if it were not for Jerry. We will miss him tremendously, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Thelma, and the Krause family."

Krause was hired as GM of the Bulls when Reinsdorf became managing partner in 1985. Jordan already was on the team, but Krause hired Jackson from the Continental Basketball Association to be an assistant to Doug Collins, and later head coach of the six championship teams. Krause's signature player move was the draft-night deal in 1987 that netted Pippen and Horace Grant for the Bulls.

Another key move was trading popular power forward Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks for center Bill Cartwright, who would win three rings as a player, two as an assistant, and later serve as head coach.

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Krause struck gold with one of the first European imports who didn't play at an American college, Toni Kukoc. He also found the ideal mix of role players to stock the second championship run and took a chance on controversial and free spirit Dennis Rodman that paid off.

Krause was always an unlikely story. The native of Chicago's Albany Park was basketball manager at Bradley University, filming games in the early 1960s. He took a job as public-relations director for the Baltimore Bullets and ended up helping coach Slick Leonard in scouting future talent.

He spent many years roaming the country as a basketball and baseball scout before Reinsdorf tabbed him to run the Bulls, which he did until 2003.

After leaving the Bulls, he continued to work in baseball and often could be found in the press room at Wrigley Field before games.

He is a 2017 nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor. His boss, Reinsdorf, was inducted last year.

Krause had a style all his own. He was friendly but could pick fights with the best of them. He was accessible but rarely revealed anything, unless he had an ulterior motive.


After essentially rescuing Jackson's coaching career, the two famously feuded during the final three championship seasons. Krause's haste to name Tim Floyd as Jackson's successor with the Bulls probably doomed his rebuilding plan.

Krause and Jordan frequently were at odds. The animosity began when Jordan insisted on returning from a broken foot late in the 1985-86 season, while Krause felt it was better to play it safe and wait until the following year.

Jordan later jumped on Krause's infamous, out-of-context "organizations win championships" line to help motivate the Bulls during the final championship run.

Krause seemed to relish both attention and confrontation. While current Bulls general manager Gar Forman tends to stay out of sight, Krause always was visible and generally available to talk. His primary defense mechanism when asked a tough question was to launch into a long story about scouting some baseball player 20 years earlier. By the time the story ended, the questioner was sorry he asked.

One time, Krause pulled Bulls beat writers aside at the Berto Center and started talking about another reporter. "You guys need to keep him in line."

"What? Is he serious?" I thought to myself.

Krause probably wasn't serious, maybe half serious, but he wanted to make a point.

The rebuild didn't go well. Choosing Floyd as the coach to lure marquee free agents probably was a miscalculation. Still, many of his draft picks -- such as Jamal Crawford, Elton Brand, Ron Artest and Tyson Chandler -- had long, successful careers in the NBA.

Some have lamented that Krause hasn't been inducted into the Hall of Fame. There are plenty of NBA owners in the Hall, but it would be unusual to add someone whose role was strictly in the front office.

While Krause often served as the butt of jokes, he could be surprisingly pleasant. During the early 2000s, he loved talking about his granddaughter and often brought his family to the Berto Center.

Essentially, he was a nice guy who felt he had to combative, and sometimes dishonest, to survive in his competitive sports world.

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