Jerry Krause Rumors
Sam: I do have to defend the Bulls on this one as it has become sort of a smear campaign, that big lie thing that if you say a lie often enough people will believe it. The parting with Vinnie went badly and John Paxson did regret the events and apologized. As a result, he hasn’t had much interaction with Thibodeau. But the Bulls often have been more generous to their coaches than I would have been. Doug Collins and Jackson still remain close with Bulls management, Paxson and Collins still emailing almost weekly. Collins received championship jewelry from the team to thank him for his contributions even though he was fired two years before the first title. And despite Jerry Krause’s open courtship of Tim Floyd, Reinsdorf offered Jackson a multiyear deal at the league’s highest salary to begin a post-Jordan rebuilding. Jackson declined as he didn’t want to be involved in rebuilding. Tim Floyd quit and Reinsdorf paid him the full two years left on his contract. Scott Skiles told management he couldn’t coach the players anymore. They let him go, but they cancelled the offset in his contract so he could go to the Bucks and double dip with two salaries instead of the Bulls getting his Bucks salary. And though there was bitterness at Thibodeau’s discharge, no one in 20 years had hired Thibodeau to be head coach until the Bulls did. And then they gave him a generous contract extension and he’ll make $9 million the next two years. It doesn’t exactly suggest a pattern of coaching abuse.
But did Krause think it would be this tough? You know, 10-43 tough with the winning percentage actually expected to plunge over the final 29 games? “I’m not surprised at all,” Krause said by phone Wednesday night. “I knew Phil had a bad ballclub. If [James] Dolan offered him $2 million a year or even $5 million, he wouldn’t have taken it. But $12 million is overwhelming. Phil didn’t take the job because he thought he had a playoff club. He took the job for the money.”
The New York Knicks introduced Phil Jackson as team president Tuesday, and during a wide-ranging news conference, he spoke positively of his relationships with Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former general manager Jerry Krause. Given the occasionally acrimonious relationship with Krause, particularly as the Bulls’ dynasty neared its end, the words resonated. And they reached Krause in Arizona, where is employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I appreciate what he said,” Krause told the Tribune by phone. “I appreciate he understands the difficulties of the job.”
As Krause is detailing one friendship, a middle-aged man approaches his breakfast table. He identifies himself as Clark from Chicago. “Mr. Krause,” Clark says, “thanks for all you did. We were spoiled.” The exchange leads into a discussion of the dynasty, and suddenly Krause is repeating the line that so bothered Jordan. “Here’s a ticklish phrase: ‘You’ve won six championships.’ No, the organization won six NBA championships,” Krause says. “I never have considered that I won anything. I say that and get ripped for it, but it’s true. Organizations win championships. Organizations lose championships too. “No player ever won six world championships. He was part of a team. Who put you there? Who helped develop you? Who scouted you? Who coached you? You played all nine positions in baseball? You played all five positions in basketball? Wow, you must be pretty good.”
“Scouting is a solitary life,” he says. “And I’m stubborn; I didn’t talk to other guys. But, hell, when I was young, older scouts never said hello to younger scouts. You had to prove who you were. Then maybe they’d talk to you. “When I took the general managing thing, all of a sudden, here I am in the public eye. That’s a whole different story. People say, ‘Do you wish you had treated the media better?’ I might’ve been treated better, but we might not have been able to do the things we did. If I had said something to somebody before the Pippen draft, it would’ve got out. We were able to do that, and nobody had a clue in the world that we were interested in Pippen. Not one person.” Krause admits that after a bout with pneumonia in spring training, his stamina isn’t the same. Air conditioning in his hotel rooms and rain delays at the park make him cranky. So how much longer will he work?”If I’m not good physically, I won’t work because I’d be cheating the organization,” he says.
Krause turned 73 in April. Nine years have passed since the general manager for all six Bulls title teams left the franchise under the softening caveat of health reasons. He has scouted for the Yankees, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks since, running his resume total to eight baseball and four basketball teams. Fifty-one years after leaving Bradley University to take a $65-per-week job as a glorified gofer for the Cubs, Krause’s excitement for scouting remains — on most days — as bright as the yellow polo shirt he is wearing atop blue chinos. “What the hell else would I do?” Krause says. “If I didn’t work, I’d probably go goofy.” Krause has kept a low profile since his successful and polarizing Bulls run ended. He has stayed mostly silent as he gets alternately vilified or praised. But he accepted the Tribune’s request to revisit his Chicago roots, to be watched plying his trade, to tell his story.
Happier times followed. Krause’s surprising hire of Doug Collins as coach worked to a point, and then, after a loss to the Pistons in the 1989 Eastern Conference semifinals, came Collins’ equally surprising dismissal — and the ascension of Jackson. “I called Phil, sat him down in the office and said, ‘Here’s what it is. Go get ’em, Big Fella,’ ” Krause says. “Then I told him, ‘Go back to Montana, let the media firestorm die down and this sink in.’ ” What did Krause see in Jackson, whom he had hired as Collins’ assistant out of relative obscurity from the Continental Basketball Association? “I saw Bill Fitch,” Krause says. “I saw Red Holzman. I saw a different breed of cat. I saw a drive in him. He tried to get a coaching job in the NBA for four or five years, and everybody turned him down. Everybody thought he was crazy. I was the only one who didn’t think he was too crazy. I thought he was a little goofy. But I also thought he’d be a great defensive coach. “I told Jerry what I saw. He said, ‘OK.’ And the rest is history.”
Jordan saves his biggest zinger for longtime Bulls general manager-foil Jerry Krause, who had drafted Toni Kukoc from Croatia, the Dream Team’s second-round opponent and gold-medal game victim. “Krause was recruiting this guy, talking how great he was,” Jordan says in the film. “That’s like a father who has all his kids and now he sees another kid that he loves more than he loves his own. So we were not playing against Toni Kukoc. We were playing against Jerry Krause in a Croatian uniform.” Adds Pippen: “We were going to give (Kukoc) the worst experience he ever had on the basketball court. We wanted to go guard him on the bench.”
Krause also hit on draft picks like Toni Kukoc and Horace Grant and signed free-agent role players such as John Paxson, Steve Kerr and Ron Harper to play instrumental parts on title teams. “You work all those years and you never think about the Hall of Fame,” Krause said by phone while acknowledging he hasn’t received official notification. “You just go do your job and good things happen. But it’s an honor even to be nominated. I’m happy for my family.” Last August in Springfield, Mass., before serving as presenter for both Winter and Rodman, Jackson endorsed Krause for the Hall of Fame. In an interview last spring with the Tribune, team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf did the same. “Look at all the great teams he built,” Reinsdorf said then.
Jerry Krause, the general manager for six Bulls championship teams, and Johnny Bach, assistant coach for three, are first-time nominees for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, league sources said. Krause, currently a baseball scout for the Diamondbacks, spent 18 seasons with the Bulls and earned NBA Executive of the Year honors following the 1987-88 and 1995-96 seasons.
Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Jerry Krause and Vlade Divac top the list of new nominees with league ties for the Hall of Fame, NBA.com learned Friday. They are among a field that joins returning headliner Reggie Miller as candidates for the Class of 2012 in Springfield, Mass. The group is, in many ways, a continuation of the ’11 class. Chris Mullin was inducted in August, and now friends and Run TMC namemates Richmond and Hardaway are hoping to follow. The strength of the Divac nomination is his international impact and contribution to the worldwide growth of the game, much the same way Arvydas Sabonis was elected, with his NBA contributions secondary on the resume.
04 Nov 11
During the playoffs, Pippen indicated to me that he would have no problem visiting with Krause, that the hard feelings no longer seemed that important. Whether Jordan, known for harboring hard feelings for years that feed his competitiveness, will be able to make the same concessions remains to be seen.
Phil Jackson entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. Michael Jordan followed two years later. And with Scottie Pippen getting enshrined last year and Dennis Rodman and Tex Winter earning induction Friday night, the Bulls’ dynasty is represented well. Is general manager Jerry Krause next? “He made a great contribution to basketball with his picks and his putting together of a team,” said Jackson, whose relationship with Krause has cooled since the breakup of the dynasty.
Krause returned here for the first time in more than a decade, a personal protest he started over Winter’s exclusion. He and his wife, Thelma, sat two seats away from Jackson and girlfriend Jeanie Buss. Jackson and Krause shook hands at Winter’s request, although Krause also praised Jackson eloquently and at length in an interview with the Tribune when Jackson’s sterling coaching career ended in May. “He’s a great coach who handles stars better than anyone,” Krause said. “Basketball-wise, he was not hard to work with ever.”
“Michael has criticized me a lot through the years, and I’m sure that’s contributed a lot to [his perception]. Anything Michael says, it’s like it’s coming from god. He didn’t help. But I’ll tell you this: If I hadn’t said no to Michael when I did, we might not have ever won. He might have had a wrecked career. “I think Michael probably thinks differently now, although maybe his ego won’t let him.”
“Who was the easiest guy to blame? The short, fat guy,” Krause said. “He negotiated the contracts. He’s easy to blame. It happened, we were winning, and I didn’t give a damn. Was it fun? No, it wasn’t fun. But I understood what he was doing. I also know where his ego went, but as time passed, I learned a lot more about him, a lot that I didn’t realize, and, oh boy, did that make me never want to talk to him again.”
“I’ve always said, “Phil was a great coach on very good teams,” Krause said. “When I hired him, I told him, ‘I’ve hired you to win in the next couple years, and if you don’t, you’re gone.’ The team was ready to win. It wasn’t a very popular move to let Collins go, and I told Phil, ‘I’m putting my rear end out there for you.’ Everyone with a typewriter and a microphone in Chicago criticized the hell out of me. ‘That idiot fired Collins, after winning  games and getting to the Eastern Finals?’ I got crucified in Chicago for it.
As soon as Krause was hired as general manager in 1985, he hired Winter as an assistant coach. He wanted him to work with his big men, because he knew that Jordan would make it impossible for them to ever draft high enough to get the good ones. Someday, too, Krause thought the triangle could be transcendent in the NBA. He hired Jackson out of the Continental Basketball Association as an assistant to Doug Collins, when Jackson feared he could be driving team vans back and forth to Maine forever. “No one wanted to hire him,” Krause said. “He would’ve gone home and been a lawyer in North Dakota.”
“Phil Jackson was on his way out of basketball. Krause spotted him coaching the Albany Patroons. Phil wrote in one of his books he had given up any chance of getting back in the NBA. He was about to go to law school when Krause came after him. I also remember one of the things Jerry said to me when I was interviewing him for the job was he was going to get Tex Winter. I didn’t know the triangle from a quadrangle. But look at all the great teams he built.”
“How many general managers have six championships?” Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said by phone. “The first three championships, the only player who was on the team when Krause took over was (Michael) Jordan. Granted, he was Superman. But you still need a team. And then the second three-peat, Jordan and Pippen were the only two leftover from the first three-peat. So the guy obviously did a great job putting those teams together.
Jackson, a son of Assembly of God preachers, nursed the notion of becoming a preacher himself before following his 6-8 frame to play four years for the University of North Dakota and 13 years in the NBA before coaching in the CBA and then the NBA. “I definitely believe that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” the Zenmaster said. “My first step was being hired by the Bulls, and it all happened in the strangest way. My birthday [Sept. 17] just happened to fall on the day [in 1987] when the Bulls had lost assistant coach Gene Littles, who left to accept a job coaching the Charlotte Hornets. “My telephone number just happened to be on Jerry Krause’s desk when somebody called him asking for it because they said they wanted to wish me a happy birthday. So since the Bulls had to pick up another coach at the last minute, those circumstances all came together to put me in the right spot at the right time. So Jerry called and offered me the job. I took my first step when I accepted the job, and the rest is history.”
We caught up with Jackson because the Bulls are holding a halftime ceremony Saturday night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1991 championship. But Jackson will be a key figure missing from the event because his Lakers will be playing in Dallas that night. “And I’ll really miss that,” Jackson said of a reunion that will feature Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. “It would have been great to see that team come together again.”
“Michael was great at identifying things,” Krause said. “Would Pippen have been great someplace else? Michael absolutely killed Scottie in practice every day for his first two years. Mike just tore Pip up. He made Pip learn how to compete and forced him into playing hard. Had there not been someone to challenge Scottie like that, I’m not sure what would’ve happened to him.”
Krause transformed the roster. He surrounded Jordan with rebounders, defenders and shooters. He hired Jackson out of the Continental Basketball Association to work on Doug Collins’ staff, and elevated him when he believed the Bulls became a championship contender. “We hired Phil when nobody would hire him in the NBA,” Krause said. “He was getting ready to go to law school and get out of basketball. … We got along fine until some contractual things flamed up. Phil’s a great coach. Phil’s the best coach ever with good players.”
Jordan owes him a deep debt of gratitude in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech on Friday, and the Hall of Fame owes Krause a bid on the wall in the class of 2010. It’s a disgrace that Krause has never made it past the screening committee – never mind as a finalist. Krause doesn’t issue statements when he’s slighted and doesn’t enlist his famous pals to campaign for him. Truth be told, he excused himself as a member of the voting panel in 2004. He despised the process and became disillusioned he couldn’t sell Winter’s Hall candidacy as a contributor. “I said that I would never step foot in that Hall of Fame again until Tex gets inducted, and I haven’t,” Krause said.