Jerry Krause, former Bulls GM and orchestrator of Jordan dynasties, dies at 77

The architect of the most popular and successful dynasty in modern NBA history died Monday. The Bulls announced Tuesday that former general manager Jerry Krause died at 77. 

The Chicago Bulls regretfully announce that longtime Bulls executive Jerry Krause has passed away at the age of 77. Krause, the architect of Chicago’s six World Championship teams, was a member of the Bulls’ front office for 18 seasons (March 26, 1985 – April 7, 2003).

“The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause,” said Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.  “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, a native of Chicago, took over Chicago’s basketball operations department on March 26, 1985, following a successful run as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and, previously, the Bulls (1969-71). During his NBA career, he was responsible for the drafting of future Hall of Famers Earl Monroe, Wes Unseld and Scottie Pippen. He also played a key role in the drafting of four NBA Rookie of the Year recipients in Monroe, Unseld, Alvin Adams and Elton Brand. In addition, Krause worked to select other NBA stars such as Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Clifford Ray, Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon.

[...]

Krause is survived by his wife, Thelma; his two children, Stacy and David; and, his grandchildren Colette, Josh, Mia and Riley.

Information related to a memorial service for Krause will be announced at a later date.

Krause was general manager of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003, putting together the roster around Michael Jordan that won six titles in eight seasons, including the a 72-win season in 1995-96. He also made the decision to hire Phil Jackson. He was considered a divisive figure after clashes with Jackson, Jordan and other players over contract disputes. 

More on Krause’s legacy: 

  • Krause drafted both Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, both key pieces of the Bulls’ first championship team.
  • Krause replaced coach Doug Collins with Jackson, which was a bold move considering the Bulls’ success at the time. That worked out pretty well. 
  • In 1988, Krause traded Jordan’s good friend Charles Oakley to the Knicks for Bill Cartwright. The Bulls needed another true big man and Cartwright played a pivotal role. Jordan was furious with the move, but eventually had to give Krause credit for the decision.
  • Krause took a massive gamble in 1995, trading career reserve Will Perdue for Dennis Rodman. Krause trusted the Bulls’ infrastructure to handle Rodman’s explosive personality, and the move helped secure not only the 72-win season, but the second trio of titles.
  • Krause was ahead of his time in many ways. He identified the need for big, athletic perimeter players like Pippen, Ron Harper and Grant.
  • Krause found Toni Kukoc and spent years trying to get the Croatian to make his way to the NBA. Pippen and Jordan, annoyed at Krause’s obsession while he balked at giving them bigger deals, grew resentful of Kukoc before he even arrived. In today’s NBA? He’s basically a better version of Dario Saric, and Krause would be applauded for finding that kind of talent. Krause made a gamble for a skilled European forward at a time when there was very little faith in the game overseas.
  • Krause rubbed people the wrong way. In books like The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith and Playing For Keeps by David Halberstam, Krause comes across as petty and jealous -- particularly of Jackson. Credit and recognition were important to him, and it drove him mad that Jordan and Jackson seemed to get all of it. Meanwhile, Jackson was annoyed by Krause’s behavior and Jordan downright loathed him.
  • In years since, the story of Krause becomes a little clearer. He comes across as a man who was indelible to the Bulls’ success and basically caught flak for not being likable. Jordan, on the other hand, was ruthless, cruel and domineering to everyone he faced in his professional life in front of and behind the scenes, but because he is considered the greatest player of all time, he has been loved unconditionally.
  • Basically, Krause got a bad rap because he was never going to sell any posters. Krause might have had character flaws, like everyone does. But don’t undersell what he brought to the table. The Bulls were great, magnificent, because of Jordan, who Krause did not draft. But Chicago became a dynasty because of the margin moves, big and small, that Krause had the courage to make. 

For more on Krause, be sure to read this excellent Sports Illustrated profile.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Moore's colleagues have been known to describe him as a "maniac" in terms of his approach to covering the NBA, which he has done for CBS Sports since 2010. Moore prides himself on melding reporting,... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories