Book Review: Blood on the Horns

After a week off from book reviews, I'm back after reading Blood on the Horns by Roland Lazenby.  Before even getting to the extended review, let me just say, if you haven't read this book and you are a Bulls fan from the Jordan era, stop reading this review and go get it.   Those who've read my reviews or my articles know I'm not a great judge of literary content, nor am I a particularly great producer of it.  However, what I feel I am a good judge of is information, and Blood on the Horns delivers big time in that area.  

The book discusses the collapse of the Bulls empire, the egos of those involved, and how each of them contributed to the situation.   The book felt balanced to me, though upon reading it, you'll be left pointing the finger at management.   The reason I say the book still feels balanced is that in reality, the blame for ending the dynasty largely falls on Jerry Reinsdorf for not firing Krause, and Jerry Krause for alienating everyone he's worked with for years. 

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that in such a way to take credit away from their contributions in building the whole thing in the first place, and I don't think Lazenby does in this book either.  However, it's clear that management was ready to rebuild, and really considered doing it a year earlier as well.  History has certainly shown them incorrect in how easy it would be to rebuild a contender, but it has shown them completely correct on total profits the organization would generate.  I'm not sure a 7th championship leaves the team any better off financially than they were.

We've all heard the quote "Organizations win championships" which Lazenby does go out of his way to point out was taken out of context.   I've heard the quote phrased as "players don't win championships, organizations win championships", but it really was the opposite, that players don't alone win championships.   Clearly true, and not nearly so offensive.  Ask Kevin Garnett if the organization is important in winning a championship.  The answer is clearly yes.

So I don't think the book diminishes Krause's success in finding some of the players that he did or for helping to assemble the team that won those titles.  Give the man his due for accomplishing much of that.  However, the end comes down almost squarely to Krause alienating every key member of the team over the years and his inability to play ego-massager.   That's part of what a general manager needs to do, keep the talent happy.

One quote I'd never heard before was made by Krause after the sixth title discussing the possibility of the Bulls getting another group together again to win more titles.  "Jerry and I have done this six times".   I think Krause forever took for granted how difficult it replace the key ingredient to his success.   You can't just wish up the best player in the game and have him on your team.  

If the Bulls had been able to rebound into a good team with a chance to win a title within the decade following Jordan's retirement then you might be able to say, well it was worth it.   However, the Bulls fell into complete muck for a long time only leaving it after Krause was let go and replaced by Paxson.  Krause never again was able to replicate his scouting magic or entice the right free agents to come here.

Interestingly, Jackson stated that he and Krause would always be linked by success, but I don't know if that's the case.  Krause couldn't even find another job in the industry after the Bulls, and it seems history will forever decrease his share of the credit especially as Jackson has gone on to win four more rings as a coach.

The book is a niche book in that the topic of the Bulls dynasty break up and the 97-98 season is fairly narrow, but it's really a must read for any Bulls fan interested in the topic or franchise history.  The prevailing attitude by senior management at the time makes me sad.   While the Bulls very well may not have won a 7th title, the fact that they didn't push as hard in that direction as possible is hard for any fan to cope with.  

Their odds of winning that 7th title in 99 were higher than the cummulative odds of them winning one in every season since and probably for the next five seasons as well.   I think everyone was spoiled with the great amount of success they had and didn't appreciate how difficult it would be to replicate.

At any rate, great book as long as you have some interest in the topic, and I don't see how you couldn't as a Bulls fan.

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  • "However, the Bulls fell into complete muck for a long time only leaving it after Krause was let go and replaced by Jackson"

    Do you mean "replaced by Paxson" here?? If not, what Jackson do you mean?

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