Jerry Krause Got a Raw Deal

If you were one of the millions of Americans that tuned into “The Last Dance” over the last few weeks, you probably don’t have a favorable opinion of former Chicago Bulls’ general manager Jerry Krause. Krause is portrayed as the antagonist of the 10-part documentary, and much of the story is devoted to his friction with Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan. He is shown as the driving force behind the breakup of the six-time NBA champions, but was he really as bad as the documentary makes him out to be?

Earlier this week, BetOnline conducted a wide-ranging Zoom call with former Bulls’ players Horace Grant, Craig Hodges, Bill Cartwright, and Ron Harper. Harper was disconnected from the call and couldn’t give his opinion of Krause, but Grant, Hodges, and Cartwright were all much more appreciative of Chicago’s former general manager than their high-profile teammates.

Grant was the most boisterous of Krause’s defenders, sayingMe, personally, I feel that he got a raw deal. This man, who God rest his soul, is not here to defend himself. From the perspective of trading for players, drafting players, he kind of knew what he was doing. He was the GM behind winning six championships, so that should say something in itself. As far as, you know, the degrading things that people have said to him, to his face, I don’t think that was fair.”

Later in the call, Grant shared a story that even though Chicago drafted him, Jerry Krause wanted to select another player with the 10th overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. Grant says that Krause wanted to select center Joe Wolf out of North Carolina, but everyone else in the draft room wanted to go with the four-time NBA champion. Fortunately for all parties, Krause relented and selected Grant in the same draft that the Bulls acquired Scottie Pippen, setting them up for years to come.

When Hodges was asked how he felt about Krause, he too refused to conform to the narrative in the documentary, sayingI’ll never throw Jerry under the bus.” Hodges added, “Once again, as far as the documentary is concerned, my whole thing is the old saying ‘Dead men tell no tales.’” That can be a common feature when telling a story after the fact, as Krause is no longer around to defend himself after passing away at the age of 77 back in 2017.

Former Bulls’ big man Bill Cartwright was also in agreement that Krause was not the villain he was made out to be, saying“I think the big thing is that Jerry, like us, is doing his job. It’s just really interesting to understand Jerry makes recommendations as a GM, that’s what you do. And I can promise you that Jerry Reinsdorf and their group made every decision.” Cartwright further noted that he had a great relationship with Krause, and that he appreciated that the general manager allowed him to come back to the team to be an assistant coach from 1996 to 2001 and the team’s head coach from 2001 to 2003.

The sentiments with regards to owner Jerry Reinsdorf have been expressed by other observers too. Krause has been given too much of the blame for Chicago’s disintegration, and Reinsdorf essentially received a free pass in the documentary.

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