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]