Jerry Krause’s contributions never truly appreciated

SHARE Jerry Krause’s contributions never truly appreciated

Nearly a quarter century ago, Jerry Krause told me what he wanted chiseled on his tombstone:


He may have changed his mind in recent years, but the sentiment could never have been altered, for Krause was an observer by nature, an appraiser, a stealthy loner submerged in the minutiae of games and other people’s talent and the ways those skills might blend to form a dominant whole.

Krause, the former major-league baseball scout, NBA scout and Bulls general manager, died Tuesday at age 77. Sadly, the public appreciation for his work, an appreciation he would have cherished, never accrued to him during his lifetime.

Though he was the architect of six Bulls NBA championships and his banner was raised to the roof of the United center in 2003, he never was voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as former Bulls Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and even owner Jerry Reinsdorf were.

Reinsdorf, who hired Krause in 1985, entered the Hall as a ‘‘Contributor,’’ and one cannot help wondering if the strange, overweight, little man whose revolving nicknames were ‘‘The Sleuth’’ and ‘‘Crumbs,’’ didn’t actually contribute far more than the man who merely paid the bills and let the team unfold into the most intriguing and dominant and exciting team ever produced in pro basketball.

Krause, who stood less than 5-6 and grew up on the Northwest Side, attending Taft High School and Bradley University, wanted to be an athlete, but was not designed to be one. And so he found his competition in putting pieces together to form a whole, the way a great athlete might put together the puzzle of his game through development of dribbling, shooting, strength and endurance.

Krause told me one time he also had come up with the title for his autobiography, a book he would never write because it would reveal secrets, and secrets were the lifeblood of scouting, and if you give up secrets, you might as well have an exit hose in a brain artery. The title would be ‘‘One Million National Anthems.’’ He was certain nobody had heard more. I bet he was right.

Why was Krause always demeaned, always the brunt of jokes rather than praise? Partly it was because the geekification of sports nerds had not been championed the way it is now through fantasy leagues, and stat gazing and the moneyball-ization of what are simple games.

Of course, they weren’t simple to Krause. They were deeply complex equations containing deep secrets almost on the level of national security. In his Berto Center office he had a sign on the wall that read, ‘‘Hear all, See all, Say Nothing.’’ The quote was attributed to Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris, the head of military intelligence in Nazi Germany until 1944.

Krause, a Jew whose father’s original name was Karbofsky, rationalized the sign thusly: ‘’People have said that if Canaris had been an American, there never would have been a second world war; he would have known everything there was to know before it happened.”

Krause brought in Pippen and Charles Oakley and Horace Grant and John Paxson, and Bill Cartwright and B.J. Armstrong, and used them all to help glorify the godness of Jordan, the world’s greatest player.

He also fired successful but high-pressure coach Doug Collins in 1989 and elevated assistant coach Phil Jackson to the top spot. There were few people as dissimilar as the balled-up Krause and the hippie/hooper Jackson, but Krause made the right choice.

In his job, his problems were really three. He was not personable and had the humorless demeanor of the paranoid. Physically he was not attractive. And third, he had Michael Jordan slinging mud at him.

Jordan didn’t respect Krause for a number of reasons, prime among them Krause’s handling of Jordan’s limited playing time in 1985 due to a foot injury.

Krause sneered at Jordan’s sanctity: ‘‘This kid has had his butt kissed by everybody in the world except his parents and me.’’

They say your friend’s enemy is your enemy, so nobody sided with Krause in these matters. Indeed, it was his curse that he accumulated every player on the transcendent Bulls of the ’90s — except Michael Jordan, who was drafted in 1984, the year before Krause arrived. It’s like Krause did everything at Apple, except discover Steve Jobs.

No matter. It’s time for Krause to take his rightful place in the Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

His sleuthing days are over. His resume is on the desk. It’s full and good. His name should be in lights.

Follow me on Twitter



The Latest
The Cubs were leading the Brewers in the eighth inning when the Marlins’ game ended.
Athanasiou, who didn’t travel — along with most of the Hawks’ top players — for the Hawks-Wild preseason game Saturday, had played each of the last three seasons on one-year deals.
Police said he was shot in the head in the 4900 block of West Madison Street.
What he has learned and how it will dictate change is something he is holding close to the vest.
Notes: Left-hander Jordan Wicks had a rare short start in his final game of the regular season.