Jerry Krause
Vendetta Roundtable: how much credit and or blame does Jerry Krause deserve? 3 writers from the site weigh in on the topic. (Doug PensingerGetty Images)

We’re back with another Vendetta Roundtable talking about The Last Dance. Jerry Krause has been made out to be the bad cop. In reality, he did build a really great Bulls team. So, as far as the dynasty is concerned, how much credit does Jerry Krause deserve? We weigh in with 3 writers.

Trey Daubert

Hey, say whatever you want about Jerry Krause, he built a better team than Michael Jordan. He doesn’t deserve the most credit but he deserves more than the rest of us are giving him. Building these teams are HARD. How many great teams have the Kings, Timberwolves, and Hawks had? The Bulls only real success came when Krause was in charge. Even then, Krause was not the one that drafted MJ. Drafting Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc were huge wins. So was the hiring of Phil Jackson.

Does Krause deserve blame? 1,000 percent. I think they had one more championship in him. The so called “rebuild” turned into a disaster. Chicago might never have a team that’s even close to as good.

Alex Chick III

In the beginning, Jerry Krause deserves a lot of praise. He saw the potential of a championship team with Michael Jordan at the helm. Then, they finally broke through and went on a 3-peat. He deserves a lot of credit for that. But then, he needed the recognition for it, and that’s where it becomes problematic. Sure, you’ve placed good players on a team in hopes that they will play well together, but it doesn’t mean they will. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were right in the aspect that the players still have to play the game. I like to think of it this way. Let’s say you have to build a table. Jerry Krause brings all the tools, but the players actually build the damn table, you’re not necessarily thinking to praise Krause for that. You praise the players. It’s the same thing.

I couldn’t name you too many GMs off the top of my head. RC Buford has a multiple championships, he’s not saying “where’s my credit?” The Warriors GM, Bob Myers, has made a dynasty in Golden State and I bet many people didn’t even know the GM was. Jerry Krause being the GM and creating that team is damn good work, but it doesn’t always lead to national praise.
But alas, Jerry Krause let his ego get the best of him. This is why I put the blame on him at the end. He thought he could recreate legendary history. The Greatest Player of All-Time isn’t going to just fall in your lap again. A legendary coach isn’t going to just come to your team. That’s why the Bulls haven’t been shit since that 1998 season. Jerry Krause deserves credit for creating a dynasty, but he deserves more blame for letting his ego dismantle one of the best teams in the history of the NBA.

Jarrod Prosser

Krause deserves plenty of credit for building the dynasty, and blame for prematurely dismantling it.

There is a lot of conjecture around Krause’s disputed phrase ‘players don’t win championships’. I’ll give the late GM the benefit of the doubt that the actual quote was ‘players alone don’t win championships; organisations win championships’. That premise is indisputably true.

Literally every player and coach that won a championship with the Bulls in the 90’s was put in place by Krause, save for Michael Jordan. Even Rod Thorn – the man that drafted Jordan – admits that MJ wasn’t his first choice, which goes to show that you need a little luck along the way.

Krause’s background as a scout was his biggest strength: he saw the potential in Pippen and Grant before others did. He discovered Dan Majerle and tried to shut his workouts down with a 3rd round promise, but Majerle (correctly) bet on himself as a 1st round pick. He famously drafted Kukoc when most hadn’t heard of him. But he was also an astute team builder, who saw the modernising of the game before others did. He – along with his coaches Jackson, Tex Winter and Johnny Bach – recognised that the perimeter player was the future.

To that end, they put the ball in Pippen’s hand as a full time point forward; they placed elite shooters around their stars; they used centres as facilitators and space eaters, rather than offensive focal points. The built defense from the outside-in which was in direct contrast to the rest of the NBA.

It’s often forgotten that he’s done all of this under the financial constraints that owner Jerry Reinsdorf puts on his red-headed step child of a franchise.

Krause doesn’t deserve all the credit for building a dynasty, but he deserves a lot more than he gets.

Conversely, Krause deserves every bit of blame for setting fire to his own masterpiece. He was correct in recognising that his team was ageing, and that the best way to rebuild was to bottom out and get multiple shots at the best talent in the draft. So looking to trade out current talent for future assests wasn’t a bad idea on paper, but Krause butchered that process. He got nothing for Pippen or Rodman. Jordan retired. So he didn’t get extra bites, outside of his own draft picks. Krause didn’t get that aforementioned fortune with his picks, either. Eddy Curry couldn’t get healthy due to a heart condition. Jay Williams almost died in a motorcycle accident. His best pick was Ron Artest, who was traded away before he reached his potential.

That buries the lede, though. The real question is this: did Krause even need to begin the tear down at all? Frankly, no.

A champion has earned the right to defend what they’ve won. Look at what happened to Dallas after 2011: they tried to build sustainability instead of maintaining their elite status for the short term and as a result they chased their own tail until they picked up Luka Doncic, wasting the back end of Nowitzki’s career.

I don’t think the Bulls would have won in 1999, but they deserved to die with their boots on. If Krause had just let it play out for one more season, the tear down of the Bulls would have been an accepted path, rather than the stick with which we now beat him.