It’s more than an hour to game time when Jerry Krause takes the floor, and the stands at the Chicago Stadium are nearly empty.
He looks lost for a second, a stubby little guy bobbing in a sea of lean, muscular giants: Jerry Krause and the Chicago Bulls. His Chicago Bulls. Krause is the general manager (vice president of basketball operations, to be proper about it). He drafted these players, or traded for them. Except for Michael Jordan. Krause inherited Michael Jordan, a fact that no one, it seems, will ever let him forget.
On the court, Scottie Pippen slaps at a ball held by Horace Grant. B.J. Armstrong shoots a jumper. Stacey King puts back a rebound. Their gym shoes squeak on the shiny Stadium floor. Along the wall, a few kids cheer their favorite players.
But no one cheers for Jerry Krause.
“Did fans at the Stadium actually boo recently when it was announced that Bulls general manager Jerry Krause was celebrating his birthday?” This question, posed recently by Sun-Times columnist Terry Boers, appeared the same day his paper reported a Bulls victory over the Washington Bullets that “assured the Bulls of home-court advantage in the first and second rounds of the playoffs and ended the home half of their regular season on a winning note.” It was the Bulls’ 55th victory in 82 regular-season games, only the second time they’d won so many games in the history of the franchise.
Is that a record worth booing?
“Face it, Jerry Krause has nothing to do with the Bulls’ success,” says Jonathan Kovler, the embittered former managing partner of the Bulls, summing up the attitude expressed by countless fans on several call-in radio shows. “He inherited Jordan; he inherited a perfect situation. The question is how much he and [Bulls owner Jerry] Reinsdorf are gonna mess it up.”
It’s a strange thing, this vilification of Krause. You’d think the public would adore him. They make movies about his kind of rags-to-riches rise. He’s spent almost 30 years–more than two-thirds of his adult life–scouting basketball and baseball players throughout Europe, Latin America, and all over this continent. He’s diligently labored for such lovable losers as the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago White Sox, the Baltimore Bullets, and the “pre-Jordan” Bulls. Even his enemies acknowledge that he works intensely hard.
And now, at age 51, Krause stands within reach of greatness. As the NBA playoffs approach, the Bulls have, for the first time in their history, a legitimate shot at the national title. They placed two players on this season’s all-star team. They packed arenas from coast to coast.
And no one gives Krause any credit. Instead, fans and writers take an almost malicious delight in knocking him. Mostly they knock him for drafting “lousy” players. But they also knock his weight, his dress, his speech, his mannerisms, and his overall behavior. “While it is true that Krause and [team mascot] Benny the Bull have never been seen together, I discount all rumors that they are the same creature,” Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome once wrote. “For one thing, Benny has another suit.” Lincicome wrote that in a column knocking Krause for receiving the National Basketball Association’s executive of the year award! After a while you have to wonder: what in the world did Krause do to deserve such abuse?
“I know what they say,” says Krause, walking behind the basket as a few more players come on the court to warm up. “It’s, ‘Hey, fatty. Hey, dummy.’ They’re still mad at me for drafting Kennedy McIntosh. That was in 1971, for crying out loud. You’d think they’d forget that one.”
He’s quiet for a moment, and then he starts talking. He starts slow and then builds up, faster and faster, until a few seconds later his voice cracks with emotion and his eyes bug out in earnestness.
“I’m a loner,” says Krause. “All those years on the road, I stayed to myself and didn’t make a lot of friends. I had a job to do. I can’t worry about what people say. People are fickle. When we’re winning, I’m skinny. People come up to me and say, ‘Jerry, you look good, you’re losing weight.’ But when we’re losing, I’m the ‘fat little son of a bitch.’ You know something? I weigh the same. I haven’t gone up or down six pounds in years.
“That’s just the way people are. I can’t let it distract me from my goal, which is to win a ring. It would mean something special to me to win a championship ring in this town. I grew up here. I have a father lying in a grave here; I want to win one for him. I want to win one for my wife and family; I want to win one for Karen Stack, my top assistant; I want to win one for all the people in the front office; I want to win one for Jerry Reinsdorf, who gave me a chance; I want to win one for all the old scouts who never got their chance.”
When Jerry Krause was a kid he loved sports–all of them. He went to Cubs games, Bears games, Sox games–there were no Bulls in those days–and his father, Paul, even took him to the fights. He read the sports sections in all four Chicago dailies and knew the name and jersey number of every jock in town.
“He was a gym rat,” says Jim Smilgoff, who coached Krause in high school. “You couldn’t keep him away.”
He wasn’t very athletic. He was the second-string catcher on his high school baseball team. He didn’t bother trying out for basketball; he was too slow and short for that.
That was in the late 1950s at Taft High School, on the city’s far northwest side, where Krause’s father had opened a shoe store. Krause idolized his father. He was the kind of entrepreneur who works long hours but never strikes it really rich.
“It could have been a real anti-Semitic situation when my dad went out to the northwest side,” says Krause. “He was the only Jew out there. But he knew how to get along. He treated you the way you would want to be treated. But he didn’t take any crap. In the end, he had no troubles. They made him president of the Lions Club and the Kiwanis and stuff like that.”
Young Jerry, on the other hand, had some troubles at Taft.
“Aside from me and two other coaches, Jerry was the only Jew in the school,” Smilgoff recalls. “I know he ran into problems. I know he had some fights.”
One day Krause found an ally. “It was the same old thing, a guy called me ‘kike,’ and I took a swing and the next thing you know we were fighting; I must have got into a dozen fights. Only this time Dick Petersen came along. We called him Pete. He was six-foot-eight. And Pete says, ‘The next guy who fights Jerry fights me.’ After that, there were no more fights.”
Krause covered sports for the school paper, and organized and played for local baseball teams in the summer. In 1955, he got a job running copy at the old Chicago American.
“Tommy Eastham, who was the day city editor for the American, used to buy shoes from my father,” says Krause. “One day my father told him that I wanted to be a writer. The next thing you know I’m working midnights to eight. They had a great staff of writers. Eddie Stone, Warren Brown–Jesus, they were great. Leo Fisher was the sports editor; he didn’t talk, he growled. Harry Romanoff was the editor. He was a classic. They were all classics–immortals, legends, classics.”
Also breaking into the paper at that time was a young sportswriter named Bill Gleason.
“Sure I remember Jerry from those days,” says Gleason, a former Sun-Times columnist and now a regular on the Sportswriters television show. “He was pleasant, bright, aggressive, and a nonstop talker. It’s a habit his friends tried to break him of. He wouldn’t tell you something once. He’d tell you it three times. He’d say, ‘Bill, this kid can play. He can play. He can play.’ All right, Jerry, I get the point: the kid can play.”
After high school, Krause went to Bradley University in Peoria. He wanted a degree in journalism, but he spent more time in the gym than with his course work.
“The basketball team was coached by Chuck ‘Oz’ Orsborn and it had Chet Walker, but we were a center away from being great,” Krause recalls. “So I told Oz that there was this six-foot-eight kid I knew from high school–Dick Petersen–who could really play. Dick was down at New Mexico but he was screwing up. I got Dick to transfer and we finished 12-2 in our division. We would have won it, except Cincinnati went 13-1. They had Oscar Robertson.
“I charted for that team. I was the guy who sat on the sidelines with a clipboard keeping track of every shot that was taken, every offensive and defensive rebound, every fumble and recovery and every defensive error. That was the controversial category. We’d go into the locker room at halftime and Oz would tell someone, ‘Jerry caught you with four defensive errors,’ meaning they weren’t in the right place at the right time. And they’d say, ‘Hell no, Jerry’s wrong.’ They’d always check my chart against the film, and I was mostly right.”
By and by, Krause’s reputation began to spread among the older scouts, coaches, and writers who hung around the gym. He worked well with the old- timers. He listened to their stories and treated them with a respect that bordered on reverence. Most important, he made himself useful.
“There was nothing Jerry wouldn’t do,” says Smilgoff, who ran several baseball camps in those days. “He’d shag flies, chart pitches, get coffee. A scout would come by and he’d want to look at a pitcher, so he would have Jerry warm him up. Maybe that pitcher wouldn’t make it. But Jerry learned a lot by listening and watching the scouts.”
It was Smilgoff who introduced Krause to the late Freddy Hasselman, the New York Yankees scout who seems to be best known for signing Moose Skowron. This was long before the web of television and radio coverage brought college and even high school athletes to the attention of the nation. In those days few high school or semipro players were known beyond their hometowns. Baseball scouts like Hasselman were like miners digging through towns of rubble for a few pieces of gold.
There was no free-agent draft then. Today players have to sign with the team that chooses them, but in those days it was first come, first served. A scout could sign any player he discovered, and a player could sign with any team that offered him a contract. The trick to scouting was to find the great prospects–the so-called sleepers–before anyone else.
“Scouting’s a tough life,” says Smilgoff. “There’s a lot of traveling, you’re away from your family a lot. You don’t eat meals regularly. You’ll see a game in the afternoon, grab a sandwich, and catch another game at night.
“Plus, it can be very frustrating. No matter how much you may believe in a prospect, you have to figure the odds are a thousand to one against him making it. Most of your more important decisions are based on invisible things. You can time a fellow running to first base and you can watch him swing the bat. But usually what matters most is a young man’s character. And that’s hidden–that’s inside. How can you measure that?”
In 1959, Hasselman invited Krause to join him on his drives to semipro and high school games in Peoria, Bloomington, Kenosha, and other small cities and towns throughout the midwest. “I’d do the driving and Freddy would do the talking,” Krause recalls. “I remember we were hanging around a ball park shooting the breeze with some other scouts and this one guy says how he didn’t like blond ball players. That was a big thing with scouts back then. They had all kinds of superstitions, like they didn’t go for guys who batted right and threw left. Anyway, we were looking at some pitcher and this one scout said, ‘Oh that son of a bitch is a blond and there ain’t no blonds in the big leagues.’ And Freddy popped up, he says, ‘You know that goddamn kid Mantle over on the Yankees is blond. If a guy can play, he can play. I don’t care what color his hair is.’ Old Freddy really believed that. He taught me to be open-minded.”
Through Hasselman, Krause met all the great scouts: Tom Greenwade, Jim Russo, and the “legend,” Tony Lucadello.
“Tony Lucadello was the greatest scout of all time,” says Krause. “He signed about 50 ball players who played in the majors. That’s why Paul Richards [a White Sox exec] and I called him the legend. He was a little skinny guy who always wore a tie and a jacket and never said nothing to no one. Well, one day he says to me, ‘Hey, kid. You work hard. You bust your ass. If I can help you let me know.’ Christ, that was something–Tony the legend talking to me.
“I learned a lot from Tony. He’d never stay in one place when he was scouting a player. He’d always move around the park to catch him at different angles. And he didn’t talk much. That’s the key. Too many scouts give away their sleepers by blabbing too much. I remember when I was in Puerto Rico and I saw Candy Maldonado. He was in the Dodgers organization then, and I really liked him. I told Roland [White Sox general manager Roland Hemond] that if the Dodgers left him off the roster we should draft him. So every day I’m scouting him and I don’t want no one to notice ’cause I don’t want the Dodgers to catch on and not put him on waivers. And then the last day I’m sitting up there in a press box trying to hide behind a plant or something and Reggie Otero–the Dodgers scout–he turns around and says, ‘Hey Krause, get the fuck out of here. I just talked to [Dodger general manager Al] Campanis and Candido’s on the 40-man roster.’ I had to laugh because there I was trying to be so secret and old Reggie was watching me the whole time.
“Anyway, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut. Old Tony was really good at that.”
By 1961 Krause was finished with college, and at Hasselman’s suggestion he sent job-request letters to every baseball team in the major leagues. Cubs general manager John Holland responded with a job that paid $65 a week.
“I caught batting practice and I was the office gofer,” says Krause. “I didn’t care. I live by something my father taught me: ‘Patience plus perseverance equals success.’ I wasn’t afraid to start at the bottom.”
Meanwhile he kept his basketball contacts alive. Through a mutual friend he met Slick Leonard, then a veteran player with the old Chicago Packers.
“Krause used to come around our practices even though he wasn’t getting paid a thing,” says Leonard, now a broadcaster for the Indiana Pacers. “He hustled his butt off, and you could always use a guy like that. I told him, ‘Jerry, if I ever get a head coaching job, I’m taking you with me.'”
In 1961, the Packers moved to Baltimore, changed their name to the Bullets (they’ve since moved to Washington, D.C.), and hired Leonard as their player-coach. “Slick called me and said, ‘I got you a job here. You’re gonna be in charge of public relations,'” says Krause. “I said, ‘Slick, I don’t know the first thing about public relations.’ Slick says, ‘So what–you’ll learn.’ He said ‘They’re gonna offer you $4,500, but the guy really has $5,000 so don’t let him bullshit you.'”
Krause held out and got his $5,000. He was all of 23; it was his first full- time, front-office job in professional sports.
With 30 minutes to game time, Krause takes a seat on the visitors’ bench to watch his players practice. He starts lightly tapping his feet.
“Take a guy like Jeff over there,” he says, pointing to rookie forward Jeff Sanders. “He’s got a great body. When you’re scouting a player, the first thing you look at is his body. Look at Sanders. Christ, he’s got a seven-foot-one wingspan. He’s got big hands. A good leg base. His feet aren’t really big, but they’re big enough. And he’s got great hand strength and soft hands. That’s really important. There’s an old scouting saying, ‘The guy’s hands are so soft he milked a cow and the cow didn’t know.’ You gotta have great hands.”
“How do you know a guy’s got great hands?” I ask him.
“Well, first of all you watch how he catches a ball,” says Krause. “And then I have a secret. An old scouting trick. I can shake hands with a guy and tell right away if he has good hands.”
“Come on–you’re kidding.”
“What’s the trick?”
“Oh no!” Krause exclaims, shaking his head. “I ain’t sayin’. If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret.”
“You mean you can shake my hand right now and tell me if I have great hands.”
“Shake my hand.”
He looks at me like I’m goofy. “I’m not gonna shake your hands. I know you don’t have good hands.”
“Did Charles Oakley have good hands?”
“Charles Oakley had great hands! Charles Oakley had beautiful hands. I loved Charles Oakley’s hands. Don’t ever say anything bad about Charles Oakley’s hands.”
“What about rebounding?” I ask. “How do you know if a guy can rebound?”
“To rebound you have to be tough–real tough. You gotta have a nose for the ball. You have to have a certain instinct. You don’t have to jump high. Hell, Paul Silas couldn’t jump over a piece of paper. But so what. Paul Silas was one of the greatest rebounders who ever played the game–he wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in there.”
“And how do you know if a guy’s gonna be a clutch player?”
“That’s one thing that’s hard to tell. You can’t see inside a player. We spend a lot of time with these kids before we draft them. We put them through a rigorous interview. I ask the rough questions. If I have a point guard, I’ll say, ‘OK, you’re playing with Michael, and the coach has just called play X that goes to Pippen, and you’re coming back to the court, and there’s 18,000 people screaming in the stands, and Michael comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, rook, give me the ball.’ What are you gonna do now?”‘
Krause falls silent, watching a Sanders jump shot fall softly through the net. “You gotta be able to handle pressure,” Krause says after a while. “The fans can be hard. I tell all the players that. In this city, you gotta be tough.”
Krause stayed three years with the Bullets, long enough to rise from public relations manager to head scout. His greatest “discovery” was guard Earl “the Pearl” Monroe.
“I like to think that I discovered Pearl,” says Krause. “He was playing for Big House Gaines down at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. Big House told me he had a kid out of Philadelphia who was something special. So I went down to take a look. This was Earl’s sophomore year. There was only one other scout in the stands, Earl Lloyd. We watched Monroe play for about five minutes and Lloyd turns to me and says, ‘I won’t tell anybody about him if you don’t tell anybody about him.’ You only had to look once to know Earl Monroe was a player.”
From Baltimore Krause went to Portland to run a minor league baseball team called the Beavers; they had a 27,000-seat stadium, a grounds keeper, a ticket manager, a secretary, and a temperamental but talented right fielder named Lou Piniella.
“They paid me $8,700 for that job,” says Krause, “and I just about went out of my mind. I wanted to get back to scouting.”
He returned to the Bullets and took a second job scouting baseball for the Cleveland Indians. He worked year-round, never taking time for a vacation. “I didn’t need a rest,” Krause says. “Just when I got tired of scouting basketball, the baseball season would come around and I would get reinvigorated.
“The whole time I lived here in Chicago–in Sandburg Village. But I was hardly ever home; I was always on the road. I remember the time I met Red Holzman [former coach of the New York Knicks]. I was getting off of a flight at the Saint Louis airport on a Saturday morning and there’s Red, sitting in the terminal. We were the only two guys there; it must have been seven o’clock in the morning. He looks at me and says, ‘You’re Krause, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I understand you work real hard.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ He said, ‘Where you been?’ I didn’t want to tip him to who I was scouting so I said, ‘Up the road.’
“Well old Red, he looks at me and he says, ‘Now listen, Krause. I know for certain you were in Oklahoma City last night because there were only two games worth seeing, and I was at the one in Wichita. Secondly, I know you’re going to scout the Van Arsdale boys because this plane’s going to Indianapolis and I know they’re the only ones worth seeing up there.’ By this time I was standing like a big dummy with my mouth open, and he finishes up by saying, ‘So don’t ever try to lie to old Red again.'”
In 1969 Krause found a job in Chicago with the new pro basketball team; they needed a head scout.
“The Bulls were only in their third year when I hired Jerry, and it was much different than today,” says Pat Williams, former general manager of the Bulls (now general manager of the Orlando Magic). “Basketball wasn’t big at all. Forget about selling out the Stadium. We had to hustle to bring in 10,000.”
The Bulls were surprisingly good for a young expansion team. The heart of the team was the backcourt combination of Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier, two fierce competitors. Bob Love, picked up in a trade with Milwaukee, had emerged as a prolific scorer. Chet Walker played the other forward, and Tom Boerwinkle was the center; the head coach, Dick Motta, preached a philosophy of strong defense.
For three seasons, from 1970-’71 to ’73-’74, the Bulls averaged 53 wins a year. Unfortunately, they usually had to face Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers in round one of the playoffs. It became the lot of Bulls fans to suffer heart-crushing defeat–worse by far than any torment experienced by followers of the Cubs or Sox. These baseball teams were genuinely hapless; no rational being sincerely believed they had a chance. But the Bulls–the Bulls worked so hard and came so close, only to be turned away year after year.
The worst moment may have come in 1973’s first-round showdown against the dreaded Lakers. Down three games to two, and playing without Chet Walker, who was injured, the Bulls brought in reserve guard Bobby Weiss to play alongside Van Lier, moved Sloan to forward, and shifted to a three-guard rotation. The bigger, stronger, and faster Lakers towered over the Bulls. But in a display of determination so inspirational that it brought tears to the eyes of one teenage fan watching from the second balcony, the Bulls swarmed all over the Lakers, stifling West’s jump shot and denying Chamberlain the ball. Chicago won 101-93.
And then, two days later in Los Angeles, up by five points with the ball in their possession and less than one minute to play, the Bulls fell apart. They froze. They panicked. No one wanted even to take a shot. The Lakers ran off eight straight points to win the game and series.
As for the Bulls’ draft choices in those days, they weren’t much better. To his credit, Krause convinced the team to select Clifford Ray in the third round of the 1971 draft. During Krause’s tenure, however, the Bulls also selected Jimmy Collins over Nate Archibald, who became one of the great scorers of his time; Howard Porter, a fans’ favorite who never amounted to much in the NBA; and the infamous Kennedy McIntosh.
“We drafted Kennedy McIntosh late in the first round in 1971,” says Krause. “I really believed in him. I really thought he could play. Things just broke bad for him. His father died; his mother died; he went through two divorces. I’m sure it was hard for him to think about the game.”
Eventually Krause left the Bulls and started scouting for the Phoenix Suns. And then–in 1976–he got the phone call he’d been working for all his life. The Bulls wanted him back not as a scout, but as general manager (or, as the title went then, director of player personnel).
“It was a fantasy job–a dream come true,” says Krause. “I wanted that job so bad. I think I may have wanted it too much.”
As always, Krause threw himself into his new task. “The Chicago franchise in pro basketball is on the move,” wrote Tribune sports columnist Rick Talley in 1976. “Part of this certainly can be attributed to the presence of Krause, the perpetual motion machine who keeps pumping ideas and potential trades into the Bulls front office.”
Krause’s plan–as he told anyone who would listen–was to build a new team around Robert Parish, a seven-foot-one center then attending a Louisiana college called Centenary. Krause had been scouting Parish for months. He liked his quickness, his energy, his long arms, and his defense. He was a genuine sleeper–the average fan had never heard of him.
“I wanted to bring in a young guy as head coach, and an older guy as an assistant coach to coach Parish,” says Krause. “I’ve always believed in having a good teacher coach on the bench. And I thought Ray Meyer would be the right guy for Parish.”
That’s not how Meyer, the former coach for DePaul University, told the story. Meyer claimed that Krause called him one night, and during a 90-minute phone conversation offered him a three-year-contract as head coach.
Somehow or other that story leaked to the Tribune, which ran a big headline saying, “Bulls want Ray Meyer as coach.”
“We were talking about draft choices and possible coaches and Jerry asked, ‘Ray, how about you?'” the article quoted Meyer as saying. “He said I was a teaching coach, and that’s what they were looking for.”
Krause’s bosses were stunned. They had no intention of hiring Meyer as head coach. They wanted someone younger and with more experience in the professional game.
The mixup only exacerbated an embarrassing situation. With Dick Motta leaving, it was not clear who ran the Bulls. The team was owned by a consortium of businessmen led by Arthur Wirtz, who owned the Chicago Stadium, and Jonathan Kovler; neither of them had much experience in pro basketball.
Wirtz called Krause to his office and demanded an explanation. Krause maintained that he had never offered Meyer the head coaching job. Wirtz ordered him to rescind it anyway. So Krause called Meyer and asked him to “soft pedal” the story. Not surprisingly, Meyer was upset. He had already told DePaul of his plans to consider the Bulls’ “offer.”
“Marge Meyer [Ray’s wife], according to a family source was aghast when she heard [Krause’s] denial,” Tribune reporter Bob Logan wrote. “He made you a job offer,’ she snapped. “Don’t lie for him.”‘
To this day Krause insists that Meyer misunderstood him (I could not reach Meyer for comment). “I doubt that either man told the complete truth,” says Bill Gleason. “Who knows what they said to one another? Jerry hero-worshipped Ray. I think he was too young for the job then.”
Meyer stayed at DePaul, no worse for the wear. But the incident bruised Krause’s reputation. A lot of the sports-writers–and team owners–had never really warmed to him anyway. In their minds he was forever the coffee- fetching copyboy at the American, the dumpy kid with no athletic talent of his own and a passion for sports that seemed almost pitiful. He didn’t have many outside hobbies or interests. He was a loner. His whole life was wrapped up in sports to an extent that seemed peculiar even to a bunch of sportswriters.
Behind his back they laughed at his penchant for loud ties and bulky suits. They made fun of his weight. His head, they said, was enormous, his jowls fat; he had no chin.
“This was before Jerry got married and Thelma cleaned up his look,” says Gleason. “Jerry had this reputation for being a guy who went out in public with gravy stains on his tie. Personally, I never saw any gravy stains, but some of the other guys claim they did. Of course he was overweight. Jerry always had a problem with overeating. He should stop that because it’s not good for his health. But some of these other guys acted like it was a character flaw. I don’t care much about that. We Irish have the drink and I guess the Jewish guys have the food.”
By mid-June it was clear that Krause was in the bosses’ doghouse. “The ripples created by Krause’s unauthorized hiring of Ray Meyer. . . haven’t smoothed out yet,” Logan reported in the Tribune. “Some owners skeptical when the veteran scout was hired as player personnel director still would like to see a stabilizing force enter the Chicago front office picture, partly to work with Krause–and partly to keep an eye on him.”
One thing was for certain, the Meyer incident blew any trust Wirtz or Kovler had in Krause’s judgment. There was no way they were going to draft Robert Parish. Instead, they selected Scott May, one of the year’s most ballyhooed college players, an all-American forward out of Indiana. To save face, Krause told reporters that he’d wanted to go with May all along.
A few days after the draft, Dick Petersen–the fellow who had saved Krause from the Taft school bullies–died of a heart attack. He was only 38. Krause cried his eyes out; a few months later, he was fired.
“Actually, I quit,” says Krause. “Wirtz gave me a choice: quit or be fired. That was the worst summer of my life. I’ll never forget the feeling I had walking out of the office that day. It was complete humiliation. I was forced out of my own hometown with my tail between my legs.”
As Krause stands under the basket, a couple of reporters approach him to ask a question. It’s a simple question, but Krause starts talking and pretty soon he can’t stop. He talks about all the Bulls’ draft choices and how they’re developing. He talks about how putting together a basketball team is like putting together a good newspaper. You start with a superstar–a great scorer like Jordan, or a great columnist like Royko–and build around him. He talks about B.J. Armstrong and the progress he’s made; he talks about Jeff Sanders and what he’ll do once he gets seasoned. He starts to talk about center Will Perdue, but the reporters have to go. That’s OK; Krause turns to me and keeps right on talking.
After the Bulls debacle, Krause went back to scouting baseball and basketball, for the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was Bill Veeck who returned him to the front office. He called Krause one day in the fall of 1978 and asked him to lunch. They went to a restaurant in Bridgeport and talked baseball for 16 hours. “At four in the morning, Bill offered me the job as chief scout,” says Krause. “He wrote my job responsibilities on the tablecloth. We didn’t even sign a contract. You didn’t have to do that with Bill, a handshake was good enough. I had to take a pay cut; I was making less than 50 grand. But it was a special moment for me because Bill was both my idol and my friend. I had met him years ago when he was living in Maryland and I was working out of Baltimore. He inscribed a copy of his book, The Hustler’s Handbook, with: ‘To Jerry, someday we’ll get together on a bad team and rebuild it.'”
The 1978 White Sox were bad all right, but they had no hope of rebuilding. “It’s not that we didn’t have talent or ideas, it’s just that Bill didn’t have any money,” recalls Roland Hemond, then the team’s general manager. “This was a time when free agents were getting paid big money by guys like George Steinbrenner. Bill couldn’t compete with those guys.”
In 1980, Veeck decided he had to sell the team. His first-choice buyer was Edward DeBartolo, a shopping-center magnate based in Ohio. But that sale was mysteriously vetoed by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, at least partly on grounds that DeBartolo owned racetracks. Veeck was then forced to sell the club to a syndicate headed by Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.
Veeck never warmed to the new owners, but the sale worked out well for Krause. A little while before it was finalized, Veeck offered Krause and Hemond written contracts as protection against being fired by the new owners. He needn’t have bothered. Reinsdorf, a former attorney for the Internal Revenue Service who had made millions putting together real-estate deals, took to Krause from the start.
“There are a number of people who thought I made a mistake hiring Jerry,” says Reinsdorf. “But I know him to be an extremely hardworking, very talented evaluator of talent. He’s very dedicated to his job. I don’t care what may or may not have happened in the past.”
By 1985, unbeknownst to Krause, Reinsdorf was working on a deal to buy the Bulls. The franchise was on a slide. They hadn’t made the playoffs since 1981. Average attendance was below 9,000–less than half the Stadium’s capacity. The team had wasted a series of number-one draft choices on players like Ronnie Lester, who was injured when drafted; Ennis Whatley, who lasted only a few years in the NBA; and Quintin Dailey, whose selection prompted picketing by women’s groups because he’d been accused of sexual assault. In the seven seasons since Dick Motta’s departure, the team had used up six head coaches. The coach in 1984, Kevin Loughery, had for some unexplainable reason decided to bench Reggie Theus, the team’s most popular player and only legitimate star. The more fans booed Loughery’s decision, the less he played Theus, who was at the prime of his career. Eventually the Bulls traded Theus for Steve Johnson, a journeyman center, whom they later traded for a journeyman forward named Gene Banks. By 1990 both Johnson and Banks were out of the game: Theus plays on.
“The Bulls were in bad shape–a lot of chaos,” says Marty Blake, director of scouting for the National Basketball Association. “They had no chemistry.”
Their general manager was Rod Thorn, a respected tactician. But his every move was monitored by a committee of owners, which only generated more confusion.
“Thorn had to answer to an executive committee of very successful, very busy people,” says Reinsdorf. “It was hard to get them together, and it was impossible to get them to make quick decisions.”
The Bulls did manage to draft Michael Jordan, in 1984. But as Reinsdorf angled to purchase the team, few knew how awesome Jordan would turn out to be. He was just a rookie, averaging roughly 28 points a game, showing flashes of brilliance.
Reinsdorf announced the purchase on February 8, 1985. Actually, he was one of a consortium of investors who bought a controlling interest in the Bulls (58.6 percent, to be exact) for $9.3 million.
“Basically, what happened is that Arthur Wirtz had died and Reinsdorf formed an investors’ group which bought the Wirtzes’ portion of the team,” says Jonathan Kovler. “I held on to my shares and then I finally sold them too. The deal Reinsdorf worked out is that he is the general partner and the other investors have a subordinate role.”
That meant rule by one, no more committees. “I don’t have anybody to bring in,” Reinsdorf said at the press conference announcing the sale. “I don’t have any special plans. I will get to know the people in the organization. I would anticipate no major changes.”
In the meantime the Bulls embarked on another embarrassing losing streak (eight out of nine games), and Reinsdorf apparently changed his mind. He called Krause sometime in March.
“I was down in spring training to scout the free agents when Jerry called one day,” says Krause. ‘He said, “I need you in the office at eight in the morning.’ I said, ‘You got something going with the Sox?’ He said, ‘No, I want you to run the Bulls.'”
So they sat down and Reinsdorf asked Krause what he would do if he could control the Bulls. And Krause started in with his plan, which was not much different from the one he had unveiled almost ten years before.
First, he would clean house of the old, jaded players. “The way I figured it we had a whole bunch of Fords making Cadillac pay,” says Krause. “It was selfish. Everyone was playing for themselves.”
Second, he would build from the draft. No more free agents. After all, he was a scout–the draft was his strength. The first thing he wanted was a banger–some guy who could go in and grab a lot of rebounds and rough people up. Then he would look for some fast guys with long arms–Krause has always loved long arms–and good jump shots to take advantage of all the double-teaming that Michael Jordan was facing. And Krause would draft only solid, law-abiding citizens. He didn’t want anyone who had the slightest tinge of drug or alcohol abuse.
Finally, Krause would abide no more decision by committee. He would answer to Reinsdorf, but no one else.
Reinsdorf says he decided to hire him on the spot.
The next day Reinsdorf called Rod Thorn into his office to let him go. “I waited downstairs,” says Krause. “When I saw Jerry afterwards his face was ashen. He said, ‘In all the years in business I only had to fire one guy. This ain’t easy.’ I thought to myself, ‘Well, that’s a good sign to me.'”
For Krause the job was sweet vindication. “I’d left in disgrace, and I’d come back on top. Roland Hemond was the first guy to call me, and I got lots of notes and letters from scouts.”
At the end of the season, he replaced Loughery with Stan Albeck, a veteran coach from the San Antonio Spurs. He traded starting forward David Greenwood, signed guard Kyle Macy as a free agent, and drafted Charles Oakley, a powerful rebounder from a small college in Virginia.
The Bulls won their first two games of 1985 and were looking for victory number three against a weak Golden State team when disaster struck. On October 29, Michael Jordan broke his foot.
“We knew right away he’d be gone for at least three months,” says Krause. “I don’t think you can break a bone that’s harder to repair.”
Without Jordan the team floundered, and his injury was only the beginning of their bad luck. Starting center Dave Corzine broke his hand; backup center Jawann Oldham broke his cheekbone. Dailey missed several practices, showed up late for a couple of games, and was suspended. At one point the Bulls’ roster included three recruits from the semipro Continental Basketball Association.
After three months on the sidelines, a restless Jordan demanded that the Bulls let him play. Reinsdorf and Krause refused. “We felt that he might seriously damage himself and then really screw up his career,” says Krause. “The season wasn’t worth that risk.”
If the Bulls didn’t play him, Jordan countered, he would play anyway–in pickup games back home in North Carolina. This was a remarkable reversal of roles; usually it’s the owners who force injured players to play.
In the face of bad publicity, Reinsdorf relented, agreeing to allow Jordan 28 minutes of playing time a game. The time limit only frustrated Jordan. He accused management of benching him in order to lose more games and earn a higher draft choice. (The teams at the bottom of the standings get first crack at new players the following year.)
“Losing games on purpose reflects what type of person you really are,” Jordan told Bob Sakamoto of the Tribune. “No one should ever try to lose to get something better. You should always try to make the best with what you have. If they really wanted to make the playoffs, I’d be in there whenever we had a chance to win a game.”
The situation reached absurd proportions on April 3 in Indiana. Led by Jordan, the Bulls pulled to within one point of the Pacers with 31 seconds left. It was an important game–a loss would virtually end the Bulls’ chance of making the playoffs. Stan Albeck called time out, and then, as the Pacers returned to the floor, he did the unthinkable: he left Jordan on the bench. “Someone in the stands screamed, ‘Albeck, you’re a nitwit,'” Albeck told Sakamoto after the game. But the coach had no choice: Jordan had played his allotted 28 minutes. (Miraculously, guard John Paxson hit a one-handed jump shot to win the game.)
At the end of the season, Albeck was fired, stirring more enmity against Reinsdorf and Krause. Most observers believed that Albeck had performed valiantly under trying circumstances.
Reinsdorf cited “philosophical differences” to explain the dismissal. When reporters pressed him to be more specific, he started rambling about how much he admired the defensive strategies of Red Holzman’s Knicks.
It seemed obvious to many fans that Reinsdorf didn’t know the first thing about basketball. One local sports reporter recalls, “He started talking about philosophical differences, and I was thinking, ‘What are they talking about, fucking Descartes?'”
Krause stood by his boss, causing his popularity to sink. “I think that was a low point for Jerry,” says Gleason. “I don’t think it could get much worse.”
It did. The Bulls had the number nine pick in the 1986 college draft, and talk was they’d use it on Johnny Dawkins, a high-jumping, slick-shooting guard out of Duke.
There was no question that Dawkins was the fans’ top choice: many had watched him almost single-handedly defeat DePaul in the NCAA tournament just a few weeks before.
On draft day, more than 500 fans jammed the ballroom of the Conrad Hilton to watch the draft on a big-screen TV. Tension filled the room until it was announced that Cleveland–selecting eighth–had chosen Ron Harper. That brought a mighty cheer from the crowd, for it meant that Dawkins was still available. And then Bulls announcers Jim Durham and Johnny Kerr stepped forward to announce that the team had selected–Brad Sellers, forward from Ohio State.
Brad Sellers? The fans gasped in disbelief and started to boo. Durham and Kerr tried to calm the crowd by reminding them that Sellers had led the Big Ten in rebounding. But few people paid attention. To them it was like all those playoff games lost to LA–yet another opportunity wasted.
Upstairs in the press room, Krause and newly hired coach Doug Collins faced the press. For Krause it was a particularly agonizing moment. There was so much he wanted to tell them. He had scouted the players for months and he didn’t think Johnny Dawkins was a point guard. Not a real one anyway. He was a shooting guard. And the Bulls already had the best shooting guard in the game in Michael Jordan. Why would they need another one?
Plus, Dawkins was skinny, only 160 pounds–almost frail. “Skinny point guards don’t play long in this league,” says Krause. “They have to run through so many screens and picks; they get beat up too much.”
But what about the fans? a reporter asked, reminding Krause that downstairs the fans were booing.
Krause wanted to say that the fans aren’t always right. The fans had cheered the selection of Scott May over Robert Parish (May played no more than a few years; Parish, a regular all-star, is still playing). But he held his tongue.
Instead, Krause started babbling about a point guard he had coming in a trade. He’s gonna be a good one, Krause insisted, a real good one, as good as Dawkins or better. But he couldn’t say who it was because the trade hadn’t been cleared.
The moment’s absurdity was only underscored when the point guard turned out to be Steve Colter, a poor-shooting bench warmer out of Portland.
“One is tempted to accuse Krause of outsmarting himself,” wrote Tribune columnist Bernie Lincicome the next day, “but to do that would be no more difficult than winning an argument with a comb.”
The Bulls won only 40 games in the 1986-’87 season and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Celtics in three straight games. The season was more frustrating for the fact that Jordan turned in a remarkable performance, averaging more than 37 points a game and leading the league in steals.
But Krause healed quickly. For he was on the trail of a sleeper.
“I was the one who told Jerry about Scottie Pippen,” says NBA scout Marty Blake. “I told all the teams about Pippen. I discovered him so I showcased him. He was an unknown player out of Central Arkansas. I said he was a can’t-miss. Give Jerry credit, he was the only one who followed it up.”
The tip from Blake came in on a Friday. By Saturday Billy McKinney, then Krause’s top assistant, was in Arkansas to watch Pippen play. “Billy called me up and the first thing I asked him was how many scouts were there,” says Krause. “He said none. I said, ‘Christ, did Blake send us on a wild-goose chase?’ And Billy didn’t know what to say. He said, ‘Jerry, the kid looks good, but I don’t know how good he is because the competition stinks.’ A few months after that, there was a tournament for graduating seniors. I had never seen Pippen before, but when his team came out I knew which one he was. It was the arms; they came down to his knees. I said, ‘Oh my God, we’ve got a live one.'”
Pippen’s play in the springtime all-star camps brought interest from other teams. The Bulls had the number eight and ten picks in the draft that year, but it wasn’t certain that Pippen would last that long.
“Sacramento was the problem; they had the sixth pick and I knew they wanted Scottie,” says Krause. “So I started working the phones.”
At three in the morning on the day of the draft, Krause swung a complicated deal with the Seattle Supersonics, who had the fifth pick. “The whole deal was conditional on a player being available for them at five,” says Krause. “In other words, if this player was available, the deal was off. If this player had already been taken, then we would tell Seattle who we wanted, and they would draft him. Later, when it came to the eighth pick, they would tell us who they wanted, and we would trade him. We also had to give them a future draft choice.
“We had an open line, and as soon as the Los Angeles Clippers [who picked fourth] announced they were taking Reggie Williams, Seattle came on the phone and said the deal’s on. ‘Who do you want?’ See, Reggie was the guy that Seattle wanted. I said, ‘Pippen.’ And they couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t let on at all. I had kept it a secret. No one even knew we were looking at Pippen.”
With the tenth pick, Krause grabbed Horace Grant, a power forward out of Clemson. In the aftermath, he was hailed by his peers as a wizard. “Pippen will be a superstar,” predicted Detroit general manager Jack McCloskey. “By making that deal with Seattle, Krause was able to slip ahead of Sacramento,” said Pat Williams of the Orlando Magic. “It was a brilliant move. He played it deftly, he hid his hand–great drafting.”
The Bulls went 50 and 32 in 1988, and set the stage for an even better year in 1989 by trading Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright, the center they had long needed. Fans criticized Krause for the move, but it was followed by the greatest playoff run in Bulls history. After a topsy-turvy regular season, the Bulls upset Cleveland in the first round of the ’89 playoffs on a last-second jump shot by Michael Jordan. After that they beat New York four games to two before losing to the Detroit Pistons, the eventual champions.
On the night of their last loss to Detroit, a local radio station interrupted its newscast to broadcast live interviews from the Bulls’ locker room. The team had never achieved such widespread popularity. They were a bright young team with three first-round selections to look forward to in the upcoming draft. For the first time in his career, Krause–as well as Reinsdorf–started getting consistently favorable press.
And then they fired Doug Collins, the charismatic and excitable coach who’d become the team’s most visible and popular figure after Michael Jordan. The animosity expressed on call-in shows and in newspaper columns was like nothing he had ever experienced before, Krause says. “We knew it would be unpopular, but it was something we felt we had to do. It’s not true, but some people said it was like we wanted to be despised.”
Now it’s roughly 15 minutes to game time, and Krause is almost too restless to talk. His usually long and tangential conversation has been reduced to sputters and spurts. If I weren’t asking him questions he wouldn’t be talking at all.
Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter walks on the floor: the courtside announcer checks out the sound system. The stadium is almost full. A restless buzz fills the air. Krause starts rocking back and forth in his courtside folding chair.
“Where will you watch the game?” I ask him.
“I got a seat a few rows back,” he says. “I watch the games with my wife. She sits next to me, anyway. She says a bomb can go off and I won’t hear it. That’s the way I am. I’m concentrating. My wife says I’m silent like a sphinx. But to me it ain’t like going to the theater. This ain’t play; it’s my life.
To this day, Krause won’t say why Collins was fired. “I don’t talk about players or personnel,” he says. “Christ, I didn’t see the Cubs explaining things to the public when they let Dallas Green go.
“I’ll tell you this: we didn’t lose one season-ticket holder. Guys would call me up and say, ‘You dumbass.’ And I’d say, ‘Do you want to cancel your tickets, sir?’ And he’d say, ‘If I had them, I’d cancel them.'”
After the firing, rumors surfaced of tensions between Collins and certain players. Collins, the story went, was given to humiliating players, particularly the young ones, with his criticism. He was not reluctant to scream at players on national TV, or to fault them for relatively minor mistakes. At times he seemed out of control, working himself into a sweat-drenched frenzy for routine games.
“It’s a long season–82 games, you got to pace yourself,” says Horace Grant. “But with Doug, you’d start thinking if you missed a shot. You started questioning yourself too much.”
Under Collins, some players–like guard Sam Vincent–seemed tentative, afraid to take their shots. Rookie center Will Perdue hardly got a chance to play.
There was no way the Bulls would be able to avoid playing their rookies in the 1989-’90 season. They would have three first-round draft choices (Stacey King, B.J. Armstrong, and Jeff Sanders) on the roster. Grant, Cartwright, Pippen, and Jordan could only play so long without dropping from exhaustion. The Bulls would have no choice but to let their rookies play, bad shots, dumb mistakes, and all. A lot of patience would be required.
One thing is certain: the new coach, Phil Jackson, has a lot of patience. To his credit, the Bulls kept their composure early in the season after hard, last-second losses to Utah, New York, Indiana, and Orlando. For most of the season their bench play was inconsistent (partly because their ace three-point shooter, Craig Hodges, was playing hurt). Only rarely were the substitutes able to hold a lead. But as the Bulls started winning, people started to forget about Doug Collins; Jackson was turning out to be a likable and easygoing guy. Besides, nobody blamed him for the young players’ mistakes.
They blamed Jerry Krause. As one talk-show caller put it, “Krause was the genius who picked them.”
Perdue was targeted for the most abuse. Fans started booing him before the season was two weeks old. “He’s a wasted draft choice,” said Jim Litke, a sports columnist for the Associated Press. “I think that’s pretty clear.”
“Look at any decent athlete and from the waist up they’re shaped like a V,” adds Jeff Spitz, a self-appointed expert of my acquaintance, in a typical display of fan thinking. “Perdue looks like the man with the pitchfork in the painting American Gothic. He’s got no shoulders. You need shoulders to spread your weight. You got to lay them against the other guy when you set a pick.”
For a while, fan reaction was not much warmer for guard B.J. Armstrong (although the fans have lately been cheering Armstrong, as his game has improved). On draft day Armstrong was heralded as a great ball handler who likes to drive to the hoop. Throughout the first half of the season, however, he rarely brought the ball much farther than the half-court line. At one point Ralph Saunders, the most opinionated Bulls fan I know, was so vexed he began yelling at Armstrong from the second balcony: “Advance the ball, B.J., advance the ball.”
“He’s giving up the dribble too early,” Saunders explained. “As soon as he crosses half court he gives the ball to the first guy he sees and then runs into the corner. A good point guard has to advance the ball.”
On talk shows and in newspaper interviews, Krause pleaded for patience. But Bulls fans were tired of waiting.
“Krause has had the team for five years and he’s achieved middle-of-the-road results,” says Litke. “Any team with Michael Jordan starts out with arguably the best base in the NBA. Krause has had that for five years and what has he done with it? Perdue was a waste–a stiff. He’s too slow. And I never liked Sellers. Anyone that tall and that skinny you know is just not an NBA player. I didn’t like the Oakley deal either. They should have taken [center] James Edwards two years ago, and kept Oakley. Then they wouldn’t lose so many rebounds underneath.”
All year long fans urged the Bulls to bring in a veteran player. The great general managers, fans said, had a knack for finding the right man to carry a team down the stretch. Red Auerbach, for instance, won a championship for the Celtics in 1986 by picking up Bill Walton, whom most coaches considered over the hill. Jerry West of the Lakers was even better, nabbing Bob McAdoo (1982) and Mychal Thompson (’87 and ’88) when his team needed a boost over the top. If the Lakers win it all this year, many will credit West’s acquisition of Orlando Woolridge in 1988.
What the Bulls needed, fans figured, was a banger to come off the bench–a guy who could muscle the big man and cut down on the opponents’ offensive rebounds. “We also need a guy who can come off the bench and score,” says Saunders. “A guy who can shoot, take it to the hole, open things up–make things happen, like Vinnie Johnson does for Detroit.”
As perennial Bulls beaters, the Detroit Pistons became every fan’s model for success. Every game against Detroit was almost too painful to watch. Usually the Bulls started off well, matching the Pistons point for point. But by the end of the first quarter the Bulls started wearing down, or the Pistons ground them down. Jordan, Pippen, Cartwright, and Grant all got tired. Meanwhile, fresh bodies–like John Salley’s, Mark Aguirre’s, and Vinnie Johnson’s–poured off the Detroit bench.
As the mid-February trade deadline approached, Sam Smith, basketball beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a widely read article that openly pleaded with Krause to make a deal. Without a veteran to shore up the bench, the Bulls have no chance of getting past the Pistons this year, Smith warned.
But Krause stood firm. The trading deadline came and went and he made no major deals. As a result, his critics grew louder, as Perdue and Armstrong continued to struggle.
What tormented fans the most was that the Bulls seemed to have the money to pay a high-priced veteran. Ticket sales have risen steadily over the last few years (the cheapest second-balcony standing-room-only ticket costs $12). The team has run off more than 130 consecutive sellouts–this year’s playoff tickets sold off in about three hours–and is reaping enormous revenues from new television contracts. It’s been estimated that the club is worth as much as ten times what it cost Reinsdorf and company to buy it.
And yet the Bulls have one of the league’s lowest-paid rosters. They are one of the few teams under the salary cap (the maximum a club can pay in salaries according to NBA rules), and two of their players–Grant and Paxson–are among the lowest-paid starters in the game.”
“Reinsdorf and Krause had a chance to bring us a championship and they sat on their hands,” says Saunders. “They were under the salary cap and they didn’t make a move. They’re making big money and they aren’t spending it on the team. If we don’t win the championship, I won’t ever forgive them.”
Krause, of course, thinks the fans tend to oversimplify. For one thing, he says, mid-season roster changes can cause dissension. Such was the case last year with the Knicks, when they traded for forward Kiki Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe’s presence meant less playing time for Johnny Newman, Kenny Walker, and Sidney Green. Players started bickering; eventually the Knicks were upset by the Bulls in the playoffs.
“You just don’t make a trade to make a trade,” says Krause. “You have to think of your team’s chemistry. We are developing young players. I didn’t draft these guys to watch them sit. But their development takes time.”
Detroit, Krause notes, didn’t become champion overnight. Starting with the selection of Isiah Thomas in the 1981 draft, it took the Pistons seven years to build their championship combine. They were mediocre as recently as 1986, when they won 46 games then lost to Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs.
“Fans will drive you crazy if you listen to them too much,” says NBA scout Marty Blake. “I was in Los Angeles having dinner with the biggest heart surgeon in California, a man who makes $3 million a year. And in the course of the conversation, he said, ‘I would like to be a scout.’ I told him that I had a better chance of doing a heart transplant than he has of finding a player. All the fans say, ‘You should have taken Dawkins.’ What’s so great about Dawkins? He was injured for four years. San Antonio traded him for a 34-year-old guard [Mo Cheeks]. That tells you what they thought about Dawkins.”
As Blake points out, luck is often what separates the good teams from the great. The Lakers started winning championships when they matched a great point guard (Magic Johnson) with a great center (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). But the Lakers only got Johnson by winning a coin flip against (gulp) the Bulls for the right to make the first pick in the 1979 draft. (The Bulls took David Greenwood in that draft; he’s now a reserve for the Pistons.)
“I feel good about every one of my draft choices,” says Krause. “I think Will [Perdue] will turn into a fine player. I have no regrets about taking him at all. We can do things with big people that other guys can’t do. That’s what [assistant coach] Tex Winter is here for. He’s a great teaching coach. Last year Will didn’t get enough playing time. We had Cor [Corzine] and we had Bill. Doug [Collins] felt pressure to win. He couldn’t go with the rookie. So Will rode the bench. We let Cor go this summer because we had to find minutes for Will. Cor understood. He said, ‘I gotta go. The kid’s gotta play.’
“I think that’s a bad rap about me and trading. If I think the trade helps the team, I make it. People said I wouldn’t trade Charles [Oakley]. They said, ‘He’s your big puppy dog, you’ll never get rid of him.’ But I was convinced we needed a post man. You gotta have a post man. They get you the ball. If you don’t have the ball you can’t win. It was tough trading Charles. We shed a few tears. But I had to do it.
“When the trade was made, I knew the reaction. ‘Dummy is doin’ it again.’ People said, ‘You could have got Cartwright without trading Oakley.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know how valuable centers are. Bill had had some injuries–a writer in New York started calling him ‘Medical Bill’ Cartwright. But we gave Bill an exhaustive physical. We knew what we were getting. And let me tell you–the Bulls wouldn’t have advanced to that point in the playoffs without Bill Cartwright. He has made us a contender.
“Oh lord, I could go on and on and on. They said I didn’t get James Edwards. And that’s right. He was available in 1988 for practically nothing because Phoenix was cleaning house. I wanted James. I love James. I drafted James when I was with the Lakers. It was on the third round. Nobody liked him–except for me. On the day of the draft, I called him and said, ‘James, you went on the third round.’ He was a little shocked. And I said, ‘Do you know why? Because you’re a goddamn woman.’ I said, ‘I’m the only son-of-a-bitch who thinks you can play. But unless you change your style–unless you come out banging–Kareem is going to eat you up.’ He thanked me for that advice, and you know what? He did change his style. He played Kareem real hard in training camp and he stayed in the league.
“The point is, I couldn’t get James because of the salary cap. In 1988, it would have required reworking some of our other contracts with guys like Pippen and Grant to get James on the team. We could have done it, but it would have required time. We would have had to meet with agents. I told Cotton [Fitzsimmons, the Phoenix coach] that we needed an extra day to work out the cap. But Detroit was ready to deal with them right then and there, so we lost out. The cap’s a funny thing; it changes every year. This year we’re under. But we have contracts coming up. We’re going to have to renegotiate with Paxson and Grant. We may not be under it for long.”
In the last few weeks of the regular season, Krause’s team started to come together. Indeed, they went on a tear, winning 9 games in a row, and 13 of 14. For a while, Jordan carried them, at one point scoring 40 or more points in five games out of six. But then Jordan tired and a strange phenomenon–at least for the Bulls–occurred: the bench responded. Suddenly Armstrong took charge and began advancing the ball to the hoop. King became an instant presence off the bench. Even Perdue had his moments.
The crowning moment may have been in the Boston game of April 17. With the score tied at 32 in the second quarter, Jordan–noticeably tired–took a break. Jackson brought in King, Armstrong, and Perdue. And they held the tie–better yet, they took a lead.
It was a pleasure to watch.
Armstrong, too quick for the Boston guards, frequently penetrated to the basket; King posted up well, scoring six points. As for Perdue–skinny shoulders and all–he muscled past Robert Parish for four points and four rebounds.
Jordan rode the bench for eight minutes. When he returned, the Bulls led by eight. For one happy moment, even the doubters in the second balcony could actually believe that the Bulls were more than a one-man team.
Krause wasn’t there to enjoy it, however. He was in Europe, scouting players.
Tonight’s game, against the Indiana Pacers, goes well for the Bulls; they take the lead early and win 109 to 102; Jordan scores 29.
Scanning the crowd, I take a while to find Krause’s seat. It’s a good one–dead center, about 20 rows back. He sits next to his wife, but, true to his word, he doesn’t seem to say a thing, not to her or anybody. He doesn’t even cheer. He just sits there watching, leaning over a railing, a game plan rolled up in his hand.
Later, I ask him if he ever saw a game he really enjoyed.
“Last year’s final playoff game against Cleveland,” he says. “I was sitting next to Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Karen Stack. When Michael hit that jump shot we started jumping up and down kissing, hugging, almost crying.”
“Was that the greatest game you’ve ever seen?”
“The greatest game is yet to come,” he says. “It will come when we win the championship.”
“What will you do when you win the championship?”
“Well, Roland Hemond and I, we used to say when the Sox won the World Series we’d drive down Michigan Avenue in a ticker-tape parade yellin’, ‘We own this city!’
“When the Bulls win, I’d want to do the same thing. I’d probably take a day off after that–to celebrate. Then I’d start looking for more players. Why should it be any different? It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Kathy Richland.