Plenty of people have taken shots at late former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause. Mostly because he’s widely viewed as the man who push to break up the dynasty. He tried repeatedly to trade Scottie Pippen, wanted to replace Phil Jackson as head coach, and basically carve out his own name being free of the Michael Jordan shadow. He finally got his wish in 1998, and he’s vilified to this day for it.
What most people don’t remember is any defense from the man himself. Krause never went into much depth about the reasoning behind those decisions. Never offered his side of the story. As it turns out, he’d been planning to. Krause was in the midst of writing his personal memoirs before his untimely death at age 77 in 2017. K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago found illuminating excerpts that detail his thoughts on what happened 22 years ago.
Much of it had to do with two factors: health and economics.
“The first question I asked was how much did people think we could get out of Luc Longley, a free-agent-to-be who we’d had to rest periodically over the last few years because of unstable ankles. Al and the doctors thought he would break down quickly.
Next question: Rodman? Each person in the room was concerned that Dennis’ off-court meanderings had caught up with him, that he was playing on fumes at the end of the season.
OK. No center, no power forward, very little (cap space) to sign anybody of any quality to replace them. Who defends in the middle if Jordan and Pippen do come back? Who rebounds?
We go to Pippen. He’s had two major surgeries in two years, one of them late in the summer to purposely defy our instructions to do it earlier and not miss regular-season time. He wants to rightfully be paid superstar dollars. Is he worth the risk, especially if we can’t find a center and a power forward, and he and Michael have to carry the load for a new coach? I seriously doubt it.”
Jerry Krause wanted to avoid going the Celtics route
Former Bulls head coach Tim Floyd explained in a recent interview that Krause was haunted by what happened to the great Boston Celtics team of the 1980s. After Larry Bird retired and Kevin McHale and Robert Parish left, the team took an immediate nose dive into obscurity. The Bulls GM was hoping to avoid that. How? By blowing up the team right before it ran out of gas and use the acquired resources from trades and freed up cap space to rapidly rebuild it.
One thing is for sure. He’s convinced even if Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson had returned for the 1998-1999 season it wouldn’t have mattered. The team would’ve been without quality help in the frontcourt and a far more limited bench with Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler being free agents. So rather than slowly watch the castle crumble, he blew it up.
That may not be what a lot of people want to hear, but it’s at least a logical argument. That is how he saw things from his perspective as a GM. Time and injuries always catch up to even the greatest teams. The Bulls were no exception. Jerry Krause wanted to extend the success into a new generation by sacrificing the old one.