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The Sleuth
Rick Telander
March 15, 1993
Chicago's disheveled general manager, Jerry Krause, mar be an object of ridicule, especially to Michael Jordan, but his relentless—and obsessively secretive—scouting has helped make champions of the Bulls
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March 15, 1993

The Sleuth

Chicago's disheveled general manager, Jerry Krause, mar be an object of ridicule, especially to Michael Jordan, but his relentless—and obsessively secretive—scouting has helped make champions of the Bulls

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So Krause carries the burden of blind good luck no matter what he does; he came to his new job, and the best player in history just happened to be sitting on his doorstep. Even though Krause meticulously built a winner around a "two guard," something never before done in the NBA—centers are usually the cornerstones around which title teams are built even though he snagged forwards Pippen (trade with Seattle, 1987) and Grant (first-round draft pick, 1987) to complement Jordan, traded Oakley for center Bill Cartwright in the summer of 1988 to keep the big men off Jordan, signed free-agent guard John Paxson in 1985 to shoot the wide-open jumpers that come when Jordan is mobbed by defenders and acquired role players like B.J. Armstrong (first-round draft choice, 1989), Scott Williams (signed as a free agent, 1990) and Stacey King (first-round draft choice, 1989) to toil in Jordan's shadow, Krause is still seen by many as little more than a paint-supply boy for Picasso.

"That's nonsense!" roars Reinsdorf. "When Jerry came here this was a lousy team. Check it out."

In 1984-85 the Bulls, with Jordan, were 38-44. After Krause arrived in 1985, they went 30-52, 40-42, 50-32, 47-35, 55-27 and, finally, 61-21 and 67-15 in their two championship seasons. That's close to a straight line upward. "He had a plan, and he implemented it. The fact is, Michael Jordan was here. You can't change that. But if Krause didn't have him, he would have done things differently. The truth is, Michael's presence elevated us to mediocrity much faster than we wanted, and mediocrity is the worst thing. We certainly would have been in some draft lotteries without Jordan. Jerry Krause has to be given credit."

But then Reinsdorf casually, unwittingly perhaps, tosses the bomb: "The real test for Krause will be when Jordan is gone."

Krause knows that; Jordan knows that: Kukoc knows that. Jordan's contempt for Krause is huge because of that truism, because Jordan always feels somehow like an impairment to Krause's self-esteem, because Krause won't listen to him about trades or drafts or players he wants to play with, because Jordan is not given the slavish respect by Krause his ego craves. Two years ago Jordan went to Reinsdorf and said, "It's either him or me." Reinsdorf calmed Jordan and attempted to sell him on Krause's virtues. Since then Jordan has backed off, raised a barrier of noncommunication between himself and Krause and thrown himself into his game.

"I'm here, he's there," Jordan says of Krause, pointing his finger first to that corner then to this one. Of Krause's stewardship he says, "The trade of Oakley was good, and the best thing he did was to get Pippen and Grant. That's it. His claim to fame is that he drafted Earl Monroe for the Bullets [in 1967]. And I say to him, 'What pick was that?' He says, 'Two.' And I say, 'Hell! Earl Monroe was a real secret, huh? A real secret? If you hadn't taken him, he'd have gone third!' "

Jerry Krause was born in the Albany Park section of Chicago, the only child of gregarious Jewish parents. "We'll treat everybody the same," Jerry's dad, Paul, would always say. The family name was originally Karbofsky, but Paul changed it to Krause so that his own parents wouldn't know he had pursued an amateur boxing career. "He fought Barney Ross three times and got knocked out three times," says Jerry. "He didn't have a high school diploma, but he was honest and worked hard."

Paul Krause worked for the Cook County assessor's office for a time, then ran a neighborhood delicatessen and finally opened a shoe store in Norwood Park, a northwest-side area that was heavily Polish-German and Catholic. "It was very anti-Semitic," says Jerry. "They burned out Jews. When I went to Taft High School, you know what the number of Jewish students was? One." Every day Krause felt the contempt others had for him: "They'd yell, "You kike!' 'You sheenie!' 'You Jew bastard!' I had to fight, and I learned about prejudice."

People looking to psychoanalyze Krause don't have to dig far: The small, athletically average (he was a backup catcher on the Taft baseball team) outcast immersed himself in the observation and analysis of sport so as to defeat at their own game those who were athletically gifted, mainstream—and cruel. It's so pat that it makes it easy to ignore the fact that Krause is a very smart man with a natural gift (that nose for talent) and the shrewdness to surround himself with bright, lively employees who don't always agree with him. Indeed, the Bull organization is considered throughout the league to be a brainy, top-notch group, from the public-relations staff that handles world championship drives and Jordan's celebrity with aplomb to the head coach who reads more books than an English professor. And what general manager would have the guts to hire as his personal assistant a woman like Karen Stack, a former basketball and academic star at Northwestern who towers over him by a good eight inches?

Still, the hurt of the outsider is always there for Krause, always aching. In 1988 Reinsdorf put a clause in Krause's contract offering him $50,000 for losing 50 pounds and keeping it off for a year. Krause won't do it. Why not? "Maybe deep down in my heart I want to prove you don't have to be pretty to win," he says.

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