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Bulls, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, Jerry Krause

The complicated Bulls legacy of Jerry Krause

As we all witnessed with the release of the first two episodes of ESPN’s unprecedented series “The Last Dance,” it became abundantly clear that there will be a lot of focus on former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause as one of the main characters in the documentary. Early on, it was shown how Krause played a huge role in the demise of the Bulls’ dynasty, but prior to that, he actually functioned as an excellent executive for Chicago.

Krause was born and raised in the city of Chicago. After attending college in Bradley University, he started his NBA career as a scout for the Baltimore Bullets. He had a successful stint with the team and is widely credited for unearthing one Earl Monroe. After spending some years with the Bullets, Krause also worked for the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Bulls before venturing into the world of professional baseball with the Chicago White Sox, also as a scout.

In 1985, Krause reached out to Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf regarding the GM vacancy. Reinsdorf obliged, naming Krause as the team’s new general manager on March 26, 1985.

In his early years, Krause proved that he was the right man for the job. His (mostly) excellent decisions during draft days led to the team getting their hands on Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in the 1987 NBA Draft, among other quality moves. By 1988, Krause was named Executive of the Year.

Krause stuck with the Bulls through Jordan’s first retirement in 1993 following Chicago’s first three-peat. Krause had the unenviable task of trying to pick up the pieces from Jordan’s departure, and while the high-ranking team executive failed to do so during MJ’s hiatus year, Krause was instrumental in piecing together the squad for the second three-peat once Jordan returned in 1995, acquiring a controversial character in Dennis Rodman before the 1995-96 season. This led to another championship for the Bulls, and Krause’s second Executive of the Year award.

For one reason or another — most of which has been or will be uncovered in detail throughout “The Last Dance” — things started taking a turn for the worse towards the late ’90s. Krause fell out with Bulls coach and longtime friend Phil Jackson, even saying before the 1997-98 season that it would be Jackson’s final year with the team after the coach finally agreed to a new contract.

With Jordan having no interest in playing for anybody besides Jackson, that meant His Airness was on his way out as well. Jordan and Pippen already harbored resentment for Krause, dating back to the Toni Kukoc situation in the early ’90s and continuing with Pippen’s contract squabbles. Jordan and Pippen constantly berated Krause, even in front of the team, and the late GM never felt like he got enough credit for building the dynasty.

It’s why Krause wanted to rebuild the Bulls and show he could construct a winner without Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson. It also highlights the mindset of this infamous and often misquoted statement: “Players and coaches alone don’t win championships; organizations win championship.”

As we saw in the first two episodes of “The Last Dance,” Krause was one of the biggest reasons why the dynasty ended after the Bulls’ sixth championship in 1998. Krause’s disagreements with Pippen were documented heavily during the second episode, and we’re pretty sure we will be getting much more never-before-heard information on exactly how Krause’s actions led to the end of one of the greatest dynasties in all of the NBA’s rich history.