Jerry Krause, the general manager Bulls fans loved to hate but the man in charge when their team won six NBA titles, died Tuesday. He was 77.
“The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a release from the team. “Jerry was one of the hardest working guysI have ever been around, and he was one of the best talent evaluators ever. Jerry playedan 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.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Krause began his NBA career as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets and also dabbled in baseball scouting but became famous after hesucceededRod Thornasthe BullsGM in 1985, after Jerry Reinsdorf bought the team.
Krause managed the franchise as Michael Jordan, who he inherited as a player, and Phil Jackson, who he made the coach in 1989, ascended to elite status.
But his eye for talent also brought the Bulls players such as Scottie Pippen, from tiny Central Arkansas. Still, he was criticized by fans for frequent misses on draft day.
It was part of a love-hate relationship similar to the disagreements he and his best player, Jordan, had on personnel matters — most prominentlythe high-profile trade of Charles Oakley to the Knicks for Bill Cartwright in 1988.
Still, he was twice named the NBA's Executive of the Year — ironically,in 1988 before trading Oakleyand also in 1996 — and, like Jordan, could count six championship rings.
Jordan on Tuesday released a statement to mutliple outlets that read, "Jerry was key figure in the Bulls' dynasty and meant so much to the Bulls, White Sox & city of Chicago. My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Thelma, his family and friends."
Reflecting on his career for the Tribune last March, a month before his 77th birthday, Krause said, "It has been a hell of a ride. And now it's over. It's time. I've got no beefs. What the hell, a kid from Albany Park? It's a long way from where I came."
It all came together, amazingly, after Chicago lost to the Pistons in six games in the 1989 Eastern Conference finals.
Krause and Reinsdorf fired coach DougCollins and replaced him with Jackson.
Two seasons later, the Bulls began a run of six championships in eight seasons as Jordan became the most famous athlete on the planet.The 1995-96 team — led by Jordan after his first retirement, Pippen, recently acquired Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc—set theNBArecord with a 72-10 mark that stood until the Warriors broke it last season.
Yet Krause's mercurial relationship with Jackson and Jordan always was a topic of discussion in Chicago, even as the team succeeded.
After the Bulls' final title of the Jordanera in 1998, Jackson left, vowing never to coach again. When Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009,Krause wasn't in attendance.
Krause retired as the Bulls' GM in 2003. The next season, Chicago went23-59, and still hasn't won an NBA title since that '98 championship.
He is a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year as a contributor to the sport.