Watching The Last Dance the past couple Sundays followed by the ensuing (virtual) water cooler talks one thing that I'm reliving his how disliked Bulls GM Jerry Krause was. It's easy to side with those that were against him. Michael Jordan was like the coolest guy in school. Pippen was his sidekick. Phil Jackson was the cool teacher. And there goes overweight Jerry Krause stumbling through the halls. "Hey Jerry, we'd stick you in a locker if there was one big enough for your fat ass!" And then everyone laughs. Why? Because you want to be aligned with the cool kids, not the outcast. It's actually rather ugly and I'm sort of surprised in time that more people haven't felt bad for Jerry and wrongs been righted. I mean Michael Jordan even tore into Krause during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Ok let's look at the main things that made the cool kids Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson hate Krause and thus then the general NBA fandom join in on the jeering.
1. Michael Jordan didn't like Krause. Michael Jordan didn't like that Krause wanted to sit MJ when he returned from a broken foot his second season. Essentially 1986 is when Jordan decided to make Krause an enemy. The Bulls weren't going anywhere that year and Jerry Reinsdorf and Krause made the decision it was best for all parties to let Michael not come back, to rest the foot longer, and if it meant they ended up with a solid lottery pick to compliment Jordan all the better. Jordan still holds a grudge and hates the idea of losing in order to get something good. Well then Jordan must hate the NBA. I've been complaining for years about tanking and how teams shouldn't be rewarded for ineptitude, but the draft system remains the same. The better your team does the worse chance you have to draft a star.
For the last twenty years or so Michael Jordan has been involved in front offices and ownerships for the Wizards and Bobcats/Hornets. As good as Jordan was as a player, he's been the exact opposite he's been in basketball operations. His teams never tank. They almost always end up out of the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a top pick or make the playoffs as an 8th seed with veterans and get quickly bounced.
The Jerry's wanting to load manage Jordan back in 1986 is pretty much the exact thing that all current NBA front offices would do. Also Jordan sometimes had personnel suggestions that he made to Krause. I can't remember the specifics, but I read them in Sam Smith's Jordan Rules back in the day and they were all pretty horrible. Basically they were the type of trades where you'd trade a first rounder for some washed up vet like Rodney McCray.
Like if Ainge instead of drafting Jaylen or Jayson traded one of those picks for an end of his career Joe Johnson or Vince Carter. I mean Chris Wallace gets killed for trading a rookie Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Rogers actually still could play then and was a main reason the Celtics made the ECF that season. Jordan has proven over and over that he shouldn't have a hand in personnel decisions. Some great players make great executives like Larry Bird or Jerry West. For others, the transition doesn't work like Bill Russell, Magic Johnson or Jordan.
2. Scottie Pippen hated Krause because he wouldn't tear up his contract and sign him to a more lucrative one. First of all, I'm not even sure according to the collective bargaining agreement that a team could just renegotiate someone's contract. Secondly it was the owner's call on a matter like this. If it was allowed Reinsdorf could have offered to redo Pippen's contract. He didn't. And lastly, why in the world should the Bulls have torn of Pippen's contract.
When a team signs a player and he underperforms, has any player in the history of sports ever said, "I don't deserve to be making $20 million a year, I'm going to renegotiate down to like $3 mil a year?" Of course not. Every team's cap space is divided up to some players who are underpaid, others that are overpaid, and occasionally some players who make about what they should.
Again, no player has ever given back money when they are overpaid. Pippen signed the contract. Whoever advised him to be bitter all those years about the contract and hate Krause for its advised him wrong. If Pippen had an issue, he could have gone once to the owner and asked for more money. After getting declined, he could have then just sucked it up and waited for his next deal.
The Bulls actually signed-and-traded Pippen in 1998 to the Rockets so he could make the absolute max. And Krause ended up making the right call in not paying Pippen the max then. His game declined significantly after that final 1997-98 season.
Also there's the whole Toni Kukoc jealousy angle. The fact that Pippen and Jordan, but mainly the former hated that Krause was enamored with his 2nd round draft pick find was counterproductive. The 80's Celtics stopped winning championships, because as they got older, they didn't add any younger stars as reinforcements. Len Bias would have undoubtedly been that guy, but he tragically died.
Here Krause was traveling the world to give the Bulls another piece and there was nothing, but jealousy. What did they think Cliff Levingston was going to play forever and remain the spark off the bench? Oh but Kukoc made more than Pippen. Cry me a river. Half the team made more than Pippen, because Scottie wanted the security of a long term deal and signed his contract. No gun was pointed to his head. Why should Kukoc suffer because of Pippen's decision.
And Kukoc bailed Pippen out in a huge way when Scottie refused to go in for the final seconds against the Knicks because the final shot wasn't drawn up for him. Kukoc hit the game winner and prevented what could have been a much worse PR situation for Pippen.
3. Phil Jackson hated Krause for who knows what reason.
Maybe this started with the Tim Floyd rumor. I'm not sure, but one thing is for certain, Jackson should have been much more appreciative of the opportunity that Krause gave him. Jackson was languishing in the CBA, when Krause gave him an assistant job with the Bulls. Then Krause took a lot of heat when he fired the popular Doug Collins and gave Jackson his first NBA head coaching job. Probably the most enviable coaching job you could get at the time. So whatever happened that caused Krause to want to bring in a new voice shouldn't have caused Jackson to turn on Krause.
Trust me, Jackson enabled the teasing and vitriol to Krause by Jordan, Pippen and company. It was hugely insubordinate. Jackson could have put an end to it, but he played off of it. The "Us versus Them" idea. At the end of the day Krause was Jackson's boss, and if he wanted to hire another coach because Jackson's ego had swollen up too large where he was basically angling for Krause's job, than Krause had every right to want a change. Also similar to MJ in Washington and Charlotte, Jackson pretty much proved he wasn't a good GM when he was put in charge of the Knicks in more recent times.
4. Jerry Krause broke up the Bulls
Again the the buck stopped with the team owner Jerry Reinsdorf not Krause. It was Reinsdorf's decision not to renegotiate Pippen's contract. Reinsdorf could make the call of who was the GM or who was the coach. If Reinsdorf felt that the Bulls had won enough, that it was going to become too expensive to pay all these guys huge money in their late 30's, and Jackson as well, and now was the time to rebuild, well then he should get hate for being cheap. But the Bulls were his team. Krause took the hits for Reinsdorf so Reinsdorf didn't have to take them himself.
The Jerry's: The decision maker and the one who took the blame
At any time Reinsdorf could have let Jordan have his way and force Krause to make a dumb trade for someone MJ wanted. At anytime Reinsdorf could have either renegotiated Pippen's contract or told all the world to hear that a contract is a contract and there will be no renegotiating. In fact I'm pretty sure he actually said that, but for some reason Pip still hated Krause.
Reinsdorf actually offered Jackson a contract after The Last Dance 1997-98 season. Jackson turned it down. Jackson reportedly had wanted to leave a few years prior. Did Jackson make any attempt to convince Jordan to consider playing for another coach besides himself knowing that he was burned out? Nope. He let the narrative continue of this is my last season and MJ will only play for me. Jordan obviously played for a different coach when he suited up again for the Wizards.
Regardless, though it came late in the game, the Bulls offered a contract to Jackson who turned it down and Jordan subsequently retired for the second of his three times, which ended the dynasty. Jerry Krause never had the power to end the dynasty. Reinsdorf, Jordan, and Jackson did.
5. The whole "Organizations win championships" quote
So here's the quote that was attributed to Krause: "Players and coaches don't win championships; organizations win championships." And here's what Krause said he said: "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations win championships." We tend to give players the benefit of the doubt when they say they were misquoted or something was taken out of context, but even if we don't give Krause that same benefit of the doubt let's look at the published quote.
Does anyone really think by "organizations" he only meant a GM and its owner? After all the success Krause had rising up in the world against all odds and discovering all these talented players and building a six time champion, do we actually think he was that stupid? When I hear the word "organizations" especially in this context, I think owner, GM, assistant GM, head coach, assistant coaches, trainers, medical staff, players, etc. I just call BS on the thought that Krause was that stupid that he'd believe that players and coaches have no role in winning championships. And I don't think if he thought that he would be dumb enough to say it with all the hate he'd get from Jordan, Pippen, Jackson, and half the world.
In the end, Jordan, Pippen, Jackson and company used it as more motivation to play the "Us against the World" card and win the sixth title to show Jerry who really wins championships. And then to rub it in his face afterwards (and years later in a Hall of Fame speech. And then even more years later in a documentary).
The first two of six All-Stars Krause drafted with the Bulls
He had to simply outwork others to get to where he wanted. And when he got there he built the greatest dynasty since the Red/Russell Celtics, by continuing to find star players. He drafted all-stars like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Charles Oakley. He was not scared to make unpopular moves that ended up boosting the Bulls to the championship level (Oakley for Cartwright trade, replacing Collins with Jackson, betting on the Triangle offense to make the Bulls a less easily guard able one man team).
Yes, he made some poor draft picks. Will Perdue says hi for one. But he also traded Perdue for another All-Star in Dennis Rodman. Even after Jordan left, Krause continued to draft All-Stars in Elton Brand, Ron Artest, and Tyson Chandler. Krause inherited Jordan sure. Ainge inherited Paul Pierce. Obviously not the same level, but a guy who could be a Finals MVP for your championship squad.
I might be missing someone, but I'm counting six all-stars that Krause drafted (and likely would have been seven if Jay Williams career wasn't ended after one season due to a motorcycle crash). Has Ainge drafted that many All-Stars? Ainge has been in charge of the Celtics for 17 years and he's drafted Al Jefferson, Jayson Tatum, and (more or less drafted) Rajon Rondo who became All-Stars. Both Krause and Ainge have passed on some players they shouldn't have (like Giannis) and drafted some busts.
But by my math, Krause has drafted twice as many stars, won six times as many championships. Yet Ainge is revered as a great GM and Krause is roasted. And I'm not writing this to pick on Ainge. Again, no GM bats 100. Ainge is still better than most GM's. Just saying that the hate Krause received and continues to get is unwarranted. The "cool kids" picked on him in High School because he was the only Jewish kid in his school.
The "cool kids" Jordan and Pippen continued to pick on him as Bulls GM, because they could. Because if they took their mocking and anger out on Reinsdorf there actually might have repercussions. Reinsdorf loved Krause because not only did he work harder than anyone else, and make smart moves, but because he was extremely loyal and would take the hits so the owner didn't have to.
One of Krause's earliest finds
I'm guilty myself of in the 90's being anti-Krause. Why? Because I was very young and the cool kids were against him. In hindsight I look at his life and legacy as pretty tragic. The Chicago kid that wanted to win a championship for his city, won six, but is only known as the guy who broke up the Bulls or said "organizations win championships." Theo Epstein was treated like a rockstar for building on a very good Red Sox team and winning that elusive championship title. I wonder if Krause looked like Theo if he would have been so reviled. It's weird because we usually love to pull for the underdog and Krause was a 100 percent an underdog.
I mean Tom Brady and Gronk just left the Patriots after six championships (for Brady) and no one is vilifying Belichick or Kraft? Often times when people are together for so long and have so much success eventually it ends. I mean it always ends in sports, but often either prematurely or sadly when they hang on too long.
I know this post was way too long and could come off as me trying to get credit for standing up for the kid getting bullied. I hope people don't just take it like that. It's just that as good as The Last Dance is the vitriol so many years later for a man who is no longer even with us to defend himself is a shame. Yes I know Michael Jordan is considered the GOAT and he will always be cool, but if you objectively look at Krause, he doesn't deserve near the amount of hate he continues to receive.
If anyone remembers the days when newspapers would tell fantastic stories because it wasn't all about just quick hitters, well I stumbled upon this piece on Krause from 1990 (before the Bulls had won even one title). Basically it goes into great depth about his life story and discusses why he's so disliked. Kind of reminded me of reading the classic NBA book "Breaks of the Game." Just very well written with so many stories. Didn't know for one thing that Krause found Earl "The Pearl" Monroe for the Bullets. Or that Krause was briefly the GM for the Bulls in the mid 70's and wanted to draft Robert Parish, but was overruled. There is so much in there, so even if you give two iotas about Krause it's a fantastic read: