Jerry Krause, the general manager of the Chicago Bulls during a 1990s dynasty that included six NBA championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the way, has died. He was 77.
The team confirmed his death on March 21 but did not provide further details. The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Krause had recent health issues that included osteomyelitis, a bone infection.
Mr. Krause spent 18 seasons leading the Bulls’ front office and was a two-time NBA executive of the year. He helped put together a run that ranks among the most successful in NBA history and made the franchise a worldwide brand.
With Jordan and Pippen on the court and coach Phil Jackson pulling the strings from the sideline, the Bulls dominated in a way few teams have. Mr. Krause, who took over as general manager in 1985, was responsible for surrounding Jordan with the pieces that helped create two championship three-peats in the 1990s.
Mr. Krause hired Jackson from the Continental Basketball Association as an assistant to Doug Collins and then fired Collins in favor of Jackson following a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 1989. At the time, it was not a popular move. But it paid off in a big way.
The same goes for the 1987 draft-day trade that brought Pippen to Chicago. On top of that, Mr. Krause drafted Horace Grant with the 10th overall selection that year, adding another major pieces to the championship foundation.
Draft picks such as Toni Kukoc, Stacey King and B.J. Armstrong also played prominent roles on those teams. Mr. Krause also signed key contributors John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Bill Wennington and Ron Harper. Dennis Rodman, a flamboyant force on the glass, was acquired in a trade.
Mr. Krause also hired assistant coaches such as triangle offense architect Tex Winter and “Doberman defense” mastermind John Bach.
“He had a great eye for talent, and his ability to build a team is unrivaled,” said Paxson, now executive vice president of basketball operations for the Bulls. “He’s one of the best the league has ever seen.”
Jerome Richard Krause was born in Chicago on April 6, 1939. He played catcher on his high school team and won a scholarship to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. He later told the newspaper Crain’s Chicago Business that his dream of playing professionally was snuffed by a semipro manager who looked him over and quipped, “Son, don’t miss no classes.”
Mr. Krause quit school and, in 1962, found work as a self-described “flunky” with the Chicago Cubs, doing everything, he told Crain’s, from filing minor league reports to warming up pitchers. He then became a scout for a variety of teams and began to prosper.
“I got fascinated with scouting,” he told Crain’s. “It’s the same as intelligence work.”
As a scout for the Baltimore Bullets, he was responsible for drafting Hall of Famers Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld. He helped select Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Clifford Ray, Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon as a scout for the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and the Bulls in an earlier stint.
Mr. Krause also worked for baseball’s Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, White Sox, New York Yankees, New York Mets and, most recently, Arizona Diamondbacks.
But he is best remembered for his time as the Bulls’ general manager.
For all their success, it wasn’t necessarily a smooth ride. Jordan referred to Mr. Krause as “crumbs” for doughnut residue on his clothes. A feud with Mr. Krause contributed to Jackson’s departure and the disintegration of the dynasty following the second three-peat in 1998.
It didn’t help Mr. Krause’s image when he was quoted as saying, “Players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations win championships.” He insisted he was simply trying to give scouts and employees behind the scenes their due.
The Bulls, meanwhile, ranked among the league’s worst teams after the breakup of the dynasty. Mr. Krause retired as GM in 2003.
His first marriage, to Sharon Bergofsky, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, the former Thelma Frankel; two children; and four grandchildren.
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