Jerry Krause

Remembering Jerry Krause — The Nebbish Hero Of Chicago Sports

He was perhaps the ultimate sports management nebbish.

Jerry Krause, a scout and general manager in professional baseball and basketball, died yesterday at 77 from what appeared to be multiple health problems.

Often referred to, for news expediency, as “the architect” of the six-time (in only eight years) champion Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, Krause’s main job was to surround Michael Jordan with four other players who would not get in his way. Unfortunately for Krause, he didn’t get along with Jordan, who was merciless toward him, calling him “Crumbs” because “he was always eating.”

Jordan’s contempt apparently started when Krause held back on Jordan’s playing time in 1985 because of a foot injury, and then increased as Krause made several trades and draft picks with which Jordan disagreed openly though he later conceded were astute.

For his part, Krause said of Jordan, “This kid has had his butt kissed by everybody in the world except his parents and me.” For someone whose other nickname was “sleuth,” it was an ill-advised comment.

Though he was short and stout, Krause (his father’s name was Karbofsky) realized his ambition to be involved with sports by becoming part of its machinery after growing up Jewish on Chicago’s Northwest Side and graduating from Bradley University. After college he joined the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets. Among his early efforts he suggested the team pick North Dakota State forward Phil Jackson in the 1967 NBA draft. Though the Bullets did not draft him, Jackson and Krause stayed in contact. After a few years with Baltimore, Krause scouted for the Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls in the 1970s before switching to baseball. He was scouting for the Chicago White Sox when he received a call from new Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to join the Bulls as their new General Manager in 1985, making them the two most prominent Jews in Chicago sports management.

Krause is credited with bringing Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, John Paxson, Bill Cartwright, and Toni Kukoč to the Bulls, as well as Phil Jackson as coach to succeed Doug Collins in 1989. But Krause would also have a very public falling out with Phil Jackson after the Bulls won their sixth championship, which only intensified the players’ distaste for Krause.

As a two-time NBA Executive of the Year and a banner hanging in Chicago’ s United Center, Krause may have received the recognition he deserved, though many sportswriters — especially in Chicago — are hopeful he will be inducted into NBA’s Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“His sleuthing days are over,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Telander. “His resume is on the desk. It’s full and good. His name should be in lights.”

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Remembering Jerry Krause — The Nebbish Hero Of Chicago Sports

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