‘The Last Dance’: Who was former Bulls GM Jerry Krause?

Delfin Dioquino
‘The Last Dance’: Who was former Bulls GM Jerry Krause?
The late Jerry Krause may have feuded with the Bulls' key figures, but the late general manager was practically the architect behind the team's success

MANILA, Philippines – Jerry Krause was a central figure in The Last Dance, the documentary that chronicled the Chicago Bulls and their dominance in the 1990s.

As general manager, Krause was practically the architect behind the Bulls’ success, which resulted in 6 championships, tied with the Golden State Warriors for third-most titles won in NBA history. 

Here are things to know about the late NBA executive:

Building a dynasty

Then a scout for the Chicago White Sox, Krause took over as general manager for the Bulls in 1985 – a year after the team drafted Michael Jordan.

Now pulling the strings, Krause gradually turned the Bulls into a playoff contender, notably drafting Horace Grant and trading for Scottie Pippen in 1987, the season the team made past the first round of the playoffs with Jordan. 

Krause also traded bruiser Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks for center Bill Cartwright, who played a crucial role in their future success. 

Back-to-back Eastern Conference finals appearances followed for the Bulls, and in the 1990-1991 season, the franchise won the first of its 3 straight titles. 

When Jordan retired in 1993, Krause began revamping the Bulls and brought in Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, and Ron Harper, players who were crucial in their second three-peat. 

Krause was famous for wooing Kukoc for 3 years to come to the Bulls as the Croatian only joined the team in 1993 despite being drafted by the team in 1990.

Following two consecutive seasons of conference semifinal exits, the Bulls reigned supreme in the league again and won 3 straight crowns from 1996 to 1998 for a total of 6 championships in 8 years. 

Krause was named NBA Executive of the Year twice. 

Strained relationships

Although Krause and Phil Jackson feuded, it was actually the general manager who gave the 11-time champion mentor his first coaching gig in the NBA.

Jackson was hired by the Bulls to serve as an assistant to Doug Collins in 1987 before he became the head coach two years later. 

Despite the Bulls’ success in the next decade, the two saw their relationship turn sour, reaching a point where Krause was already courting another coach to replace Jackson for the 1997-1998 season. 

Jackson was eventually given a final season to coach the Bulls, with Krause reassuring it was the last year the “Zen Master” will call the shots for the team. 

Bulls stars Jordan and Scottie Pippen also butted heads with Krause. 

Jordan openly discussed he was against the rebuilding plan of Krause heading into the 1997-1998 season, saying “We are entitled to defend what we have until we lose it.” 

The five-time NBA Most Valuable Player even took a shot at Krause during his Hall of Fame speech. 

“He said organizations win championships. I say I didn’t see organizations play with a flu in Utah. I didn’t see him playing with a bad ankle,” Jordan said. 

“Granted, I think organizations put together a team, but at the end of the day, the team got to go out and play. So in essence, I think the players win the championships.” 

Krause was quoted to saying, “Players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations win championships,” although he clarified what he exactly said was, “Players and coaches alone don’t win championships.” 


VILLAIN? Former general manager Jerry Krause (right) may have been a villain to some Bulls stars, but he has also been described as a sweet guy. Photo by Dan Levine/AFP


Pippen, meanwhile, admitted to disrespecting Krause in the latter years of the Bulls’ dynasty, owing to the executive publicly discussing that he was open to trading the Hall of Fame forward. 

Former NBA star Tracy McGrady said he was nearly traded to the Bulls for Pippen, but the deal fell through. 

Pippen also grew frustrated of his low-paying contract, which had him become only the sixth-highest paid player in the Bulls and the 122nd-highest paid player in the entire league in 1997. 

After winning their sixth championship in 1998, Jordan retired, Jackson became a free agent coach, and Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets, officially ending the Bulls’ dominant run. 

Krause was somewhat depicted as a villain during the Bulls dynasty, but team owner Jerry Reinsdorf said he was “one of the nicest, kindest, sweetest men I’ve ever known.” 

Struggling Bulls

The rebuilding Krause envisioned did not pan out.

Following their second three-peat, the Bulls slipped to 15th place in the East with a 13-37 record in the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season and never reached the playoffs until the 2003-2004 season.

Krause resigned in 2003 and was replaced by John Paxson, a member of the Bulls’ first three-peat. 

A baseball player in high school, Krause returned to the sport as a scout for the New York Mets and eventually for the White Sox. 

Krause died in 2017 and was posthumously inducted to the Hall of Fame in the same year together with McGrady. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.