Jerry Krause Got a Raw Deal in ‘The Last Dance’ — Just Ask Around
There were some winners and some losers in ESPN’s docuseries The Last Dance. The highly-rated series gave a behind-the-scenes look at the Chicago Bulls, focusing on the sixth NBA title and their final year together. There was never-before-seen footage, along with interviews with players, coaches, and opponents that told the story of Michael Jordan and his quest for a sixth championship. The biggest loser in the whole series was former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, a man many say was unfairly portrayed and a man who’s no longer here to defend himself.
Jerry Krause’s NBA career
Jerry Krause began his NBA career as a scout. After graduating from Bradley University, Krause began a stint as a scout with the Baltimore Bullets and worked his way up the ranks. During the 1970s, Krause also worked for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls in their scouting departments.
During the 70s, Krause also doubled as a baseball scout. Krause worked for the Chicago White Sox, among other teams, and was responsible for the signing of Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams as players. Guillen and Williams would later team up as manager and general manager, respectively, to win the 2005 World Series.
In 1985, Krause replaced Rod Thorn as GM of the Bulls. Although Krause did not draft Michael Jordan, he surrounded him with loads of talent. He traded for Scottie Pippen in a draft-day trade in 1987 and also selected Horace Grant with the 10th overall pick that year. He also brought in Dennis Rodman in a trade for center Will Perdue. Pippen, Grant, and Rodman were key ingredients in helping the Bulls reach six NBA titles. Krause was also responsible for bringing in coach Phil Jackson.
‘The Last Dance’ portrayal of Krause
At the conclusion of ESPN’s The Last Dance, there were a few unhappy campers. Scottie Pippen was not happy with the way he was portrayed in the series. Horace Grant, another key member of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, was also angry after it was over. He even called Michael Jordan a liar, saying (Jordan) would try to destroy your character if you ever said anything about him.
One person who was also seemingly portrayed unfairly was Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause. Krause died in March 0f 2017 at the age of 77 and isn’t around to defend himself. In the series, Krause was made out to be the bad guy, the one responsible for breaking up the team. Krause was made out to be the villain as all fingers pointed at him to forcing out Phil Jackson as coach. It was made out that Krause, not team owner Jerry Reinsdorf, broke up the dynasty.
Krause did not have a good relationship with the Chicago media, specifically Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune. Smith was interviewed heavily in the series. “He was terrible to the beat writers, and not much better with the columnists in town,” said David Aldridge of The Athletic in an article in Yahoo! Sports. “So when it came to the time where somebody has to stand up for Jerry Krause, there was nobody because they all couldn’t stand him.
Jerry Krause didn’t draft Jordan, but he put everything else in place around him on that team starting with Phil Jackson,” Aldridge said. “People forget now, he fired a guy who was in the Eastern Conference finals, a pretty damn good coach, and he fired him for a guy who had never been an NBA head coach ever before. That takes some doing.”
Sticking up for Krause
While Jerry Krause isn’t around to speak about The Last Dance, there are others who speak of the way he was depicted in the series. Former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Wayne Embry gave his thoughts in an article posted on Cleveland.com.
“(The documentary) is a cheap shot when it comes to Jerry,” said former Cavs GM Wayne Embry. “Jerry was very good at his job. Once you got to know him, he was a decent guy. Jerry was ahead of his time. He had tremendous relationships with coaches at smaller schools. He would want to meet a prospect’s parents. Part was to get to know the family, but also to look at how the player’s father was built physically. He thought that was a way to gauge how the young player will look when fully grown.”
Steve Kerr, who played under the Krause regime sent a text message regarding Krause that appeared in the Cleveland.com article. “Jerry was an excellent judge of talent and did an amazing job of assembling the Bulls,” wrote Kerr. “He was socially awkward, so it was difficult to get to know him. It always seemed he sought more credit to justify his work when his work actually would have spoken for itself. He just couldn’t figure out that part.”