Does Jerry Krause belong in the Hall of Fame?

Michael, Scottie, Dennis, Phil, and even Tex have all been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Does Jerry Krause deserve to join them?

It's an interesting case with Jerry, and it's easy to make an argument both ways.

The pro Krause argument:

We'll always debate about how much impact Krause had on the Bulls winning titles, and he was spotted Michael Jordan rather than drafting him. However, it's exceedingly likely that Krause would have drafted Jordan if he had been hired a year earlier as Jordan was the no brainer pick that year at draft slot #3.

Ignoring that, look at what Krause did to maximize Jordan's career. The Bulls won six titles over 11 healthy seasons with Jordan. The six titles is impressive alone, but it's more impressive when you realize just how short Jordan's career really was. His two year retirement and one season lost to injury combined with a start after his junior year of college left him with fewer years than today's players.

As an example, Kobe Bryant has already played 15 full seasons. LeBron James is in his early prime and has played eight. Shaq played for 19 though I didn't count the last two Wizards years for Jordan so you can cut off the last few years Shaq was playing while clearly well beyond his prime and say he also had 15 or so seasons as a star.

The point is, no star since the Celtics dynasty, has matched what Jordan has done in terms of titles despite many of them having considerably longer careers to do it.

As such, the teeth over the "anyone could do what Krause did" argument might not be as strong as you think.

Also, bare in mind these moves that he made:
1: He traded up to get Scottie Pippen in what will go down as an all-time great move.
2: He brought in Phil Jackson and Tex Winter from obscurity and fired Doug Collins to put Phil Jackson in charge and force the triangle offense on the players.
3: He scouted Toni Kukoc and brought him over from Europe
4: He traded Charles Oakley to get Bill Cartwright [I actually wonder if this was ultimately a good move, as I'm not sure the Bulls wouldn't have won with Oakley as well given more time, but I digress, most historians feel the Bulls needed Cartwright].

These were not run of the mill moves that anyone would have made or letting guys fall to him in the draft. He traded up to get a hall of fame player in the draft. He brought in the greatest coach in the history of basketball out of obscurity and fired a productive coach to use an offense no one thought would work.

He started the wave of European scouting with Kukoc and was able get the center he needed to win a title even if it cost him an excellent long term piece. Jerry Krause wasn't just along for the ride, he made very bold, very risky moves, and they paid off big time.

There were also other moves drafting Horace Grant, trading for Rodman [Krause didn't initially want either, but listened to his people and made them happen], as well as bringing in guys like Brian Williams, Ron Harper, and keeping shooters around Jordan. Those moves were more obvious, more run of the mill, but he didn't screw them up at all.

I think it's fair to say Krause either maximized the amount of titles that could possibly have been won in the Jordan era or fell one short if you think they could have won in 98-99. It's worth remembering, he needed to dismantle the entire roster outside of Jordan when he came in, and the cleanup was going to take some time, so winning earlier while still building for the long run probably wasn't a real possibility for anyone.

Given the unlimited number of ways Krause could have screwed things up but ultimately didn't, the Bulls dynasty owes quite a bit to him.

The case against Krause:

There are several problems with the Krause argument, starting with the fact that his attitude towards people became cancerous and problematic for the team. In the middle of Phil Jackson's run with the Bulls, he wanted to sign a 10 year 10 million dollar coaching deal. A deal which would have seen him coaching beyond the end of the dynasty.

Krause refused, and by the end of Jackson's tenure with the Bulls he was paid five million a year to coach. Krause ended up spending vastly more money for fewer years and pissed off Jackson in the process.

He didn't want Horace Grant or Dennis Rodman and had to be begged to bring them both on the team. While you can argue that Krause ultimately made the moves, you can also argue that it was a rather large hole in his own view of player evaluation that he didn't believe in either move.

Krause also blew the vast majority of his draft picks in the dynasty era which ultimately didn't hurt the team, but it didn't show much of his drafting ability to find real talent and live up to his reputation as a premier scout. The Bulls were certainly drafting late, but there was enough talent available every year that you'd expect at least a couple good hits with those late picks.

His biggest sin in the dynasty era comes from his attitude towards his stars. The attitude that was the largest of many large factors contributing to the dynasty ending. It's fair to say Jordan and Jackson treated Krause as badly [or worse] than he treated them, but only Krause held a job who's primary function was to bring in and keep talent.

Jordan and Jackson were difficult to work with, but it was Krause's job to suck it up and deal with it. Without getting into a "he started it" battle, they were clearly unprofessional in dealing with Krause, but their primary function was to win basketball games, and they were the best in the world at it.

Krause, in fact, wanted to end the dynasty a year before he did, and many people still believe he cost the Bulls a title in 98-99 by running the team out of town in order to facilitate a quick recovery.

However, most of those arguments fall into the category of things Krause almost did or wanted to do. They don't have tremendous teeth to them. There are many things in life I've almost done that would have been terrible decisions, but that I ultimately decided against.

The real teeth in the anti-Krause argument comes in the post dynasty era. Krause became so toxic in this era that no one would ever offer him a basketball job again, and he went into obscurity as a baseball scout where Jerry Reinsdorf gave him a job.

How did he do it? By ushering in one of the worst eras of basketball in the history of the game. He started with a blank slate. A ton of lottery picks and nearly the entire salary cap to work with.

When he left, the Bulls had nearly 50% of their salary cap locked into Jalen Rose and Eddie Robinson. Two players they did not want on monster deals. They had no real young tradeable assets as Eddie Curry and Tyson Chandler looked like complete busts, and Jay Williams just ended his career in a motorcycle accident [though obviously not Krause's fault].

In short, they were left with 20 type talent and couldn't even get under the cap. He went from blank slate to near worst possible position you can leave a team. Outside of Isiah Thomas, it was perhaps the worst run of a GM that immediately comes to mind.

Also, it doesn't take a genius to see how much easier things could have gone. Let's simply presume that in the 2001 draft, Krause used his three picks on the players taken immediately after he drafted. Let's also assume that he doesn't piss away money on Eddie Robinson and Ron Mercer, and that he doesn't trade for Jalen Rose.

Your Chicago Bulls 8 man core:
PG: Gilbert Arenas, Jamal Crawford
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Ron Artest, Fred Hoiberg
PF: Pau Gasol, Donyell Marshall
C: Brad Miller

Would that team have won a title? I don't know, but they would have certainly made finals appearances given how weak the East was during that era. They would have been extremely good, very entertaining, had tremendous balance, and even if they fell short, Krause would have gotten credit for rebuilding something great from scratch.

This isn't some crazy hindsight plan. It represents only not making moves which were idiotic at the time (Rose, Robinson, and Mercer), keeping guys we actually did get, and taking the player immediately after the guy we took in just one draft.

There are probably a million other tweaks you could make to what Krause did, starting with not hiring Tim Floyd, who might be the worst NBA coach to ever last more than three seasons in the league.

In the end, without Jordan, Krause was a complete failure.

I don't think Krause needed to win a title without Jordan to make him hall of fame worthy. Even if he could have accomplished average, I think we would have given him credit. However, he went on to usher in perhaps the worst era of basketball the NBA has seen simply crushing what should have been near unlimited brand loyalty to the team after winning six titles.

So how do you weigh Krause's career? In the balance will be the fact that many fans will never forgive him for a feud that wasn't entirely his fault and that he was scapegoated as public enemy #1 for a long time. His career is the ultimate ying vs yang as he helped bring the Bulls to the highest heights and also took them to the lowest lows.

I don't think I would put Jerry in the Hall of Fame, but I think a compelling argument can be made. Michael Jordan would have won at least one NBA title without Jerry Krause, but he wouldn't have won six.

[side note thanks to those debating this topic on realgm with me, I have included some of your arguments and have been swayed by many of your points]


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  • The next Bull(player or FO) to be in the HOF will be either Krause or Rose. I think Krause deserves to be in the HOF.
    The Bulls were a worldwide phenomenon and built the sport for the current era. Anybody deeply involved with that has to get the nod.

    Isn't it obvious that MJ and Phil were jerks(based on their future comments and how they behaved after their Bull-life. Look at Phil talking bad about so many other NBA guys(Nowitzki, SVG etc..) and MJ's failure as a GM. The huge success obviously went to MJ's head and he wanted to be the GM kind deciding important GM moves like salaries, contracts and players. His ego would never allow him to like Krause. I am sure if there was Jerry West running the Bulls instead of Krause, MJ and Phil would be hating West.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I do think MJ and Phil treated Krause poorly, but the people I know involved with the organization said Krause was pretty horrible to be around and always took Jackson's side in their feud.

    Granted, I think that varies significantly depending who you ask. It's certainly clear that Krause left a very bad taste in the mouth of anyone who had to deal with him in the basketball world. Other GMs didn't like dealing with him, and all of the Bulls players always were pissed off in their negotiations.

    The story where he tried to low ball Jackson only to pay him far more later, for fewer years and piss him off in the process is the sort of story that's common when it comes to negotiations with Jerry.

  • People think they "know" what athletes and coaches are really like, and sometimes they're right; but the media can not be relied upon to convey this impression. How many Chicago media personalities have become TV talking heads with inflated egos on all these sports talk shows as people crave more and more info/inside talk while their personal lives disintegrate? How many times have I heard the great Michael Jordan disparaged by snide, self-inflated "journalists" who live and die with corporate/Chicago Tribune/Comcast/Reinsdorf apporval? Rodman used the media. When you can be used by Dennis Rodman that tells you something. Huge money more and more is being made by pro sports and big business has no time for the truth, but only the most profitable spin. And big business is more likely then ever to be slanted towards a favorable view of owners/franchises/corporate then players or even coaches. Newspapers/online versions are a profit oriented business, and readership increases with sensational/dramatic appraisals of sports personalities and their lives/exploits. Virtually every broadcast network all have become entertwined in co-ownership/conglomeration/collusion. Things like basically every network being involved in a public broadcast of a pro sport/exempted business like the NBA is not healthy. Some non-vested parties are needed to report without the filter of personal gain in a pro market/positive spin towards the NBA. ESPN/ABC, NBC(Comcast), TNT/TBS, CBS broadcasts sports channels which hilight NBA prospect/talent studded teams plus pre-NBA star watches like Nike Hoops Summitt. Every TV network/news outlett making money off of NBA success/approval. This never would have been allowed in the past/before congress became corrupt beyond belief/bought out by big business lobbies.

    Anyone who just observes guys like Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan from early on can see these guys were happy well motivated people. But one sees what success and the elite grind of high stakes winning can do to you. Look at past presidents post White House. A lot of them become bitter shells of what they were guys like Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, Clinton. Bloated egos full of dismay and regret over losing the throne of public adulation.

    Sure Phil and Michael today seem like bitter castaways shut in by thier own hyperinflated egos, but how many people over time have good points in their lives and very bad ones? A rise and fall, sometimes in reverse order. How many driven, successful people leave a wake of very dysfuntional personal lives in their path towards success. I doubt they are very happy people today at least they do not appear so. But at one time Rodman had fun with his Bulls teammates, Phil was a happy liberating mentor, Michael was indeed well liked by many of his stalwart teammates inclduing Pax, Toni, Steve Kerr. Ron Harper, Scottie, and for a long time by Phil. You could see the joy and character of those Bulls teams. That's why they won so many games and titles. Jordan's talent and relentless/ruthless drive would overshadow those things over time.

    As for Krause was he a prick for much of the ride? My gut tells me yes from quotes by him and reactions from others. But I'm sure as a socially awkward, unattractive, stubborn driven man himself who did not cow tow to Phil or Michael some of that hate was not earned/desrved. He certainly should go in to the HOF in my opinion. Ronnie Harper, Toni, Dennis, Steve Kerr, Scottie, Horace, Phil, Tex Winter, Cartwright(who was needed to win), Luc and on and on were all his doing. Sure Phil deserves some credit as do others for some of the acquisitions, hell look at guys the Lakers picked up with Phil just as the Bulls did. But without Krause the Bulls may not win any titles at all in the Jordan era. Suiccessful guys aren't always good guys, but by the same token Krause was probably once a "better man" as were Phil, Michael, and Scottie. Judge not, lest yee be judged.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I find it very difficult to believe Michael Jordan doesn't win a title with virtually anyone as GM eventually. However, I don't think there was much room for improvement in titles won relative to what Krause did.

  • I think that the post dynasty stuff is enough to disqualify him. If nothing else, the Bulls got nothing out of draft picks Brand, Artest, Curry, and Chandler. The kids were Jerry's idea.

    20 years from now, are we going to induct Pax or Gar into the hall of fame because somehow the Bulls won the lottery and took obvious pick Rose? One could say that Beasley didn't stick with Miami, but I don't think that changes the result.

  • Krause should be in the HOF, granted his post Jordan moves were brutal, Eddy Curry was a bust in high school so whoever decided he was good should have lost their job immediately for drafting him. But the Jordan years were outstanding. And for that alone, Hall of Fame.

  • He has my vote. I know he wasn't well-liked and a bit of an ego-maniac...and yes, he inherited Michael Jordan, but Krause built a great team around him, took some big chances on guys like Pippen, Rodman, and Kukoc, made unpopular deals that worked (i.e. Oakley for Cartwright)

    For a decade, he seemingly made all the right moves. He deserves his share of the credit for the Bulls dynasty.

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