Jerry Krause, the architect of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, has died at age 77.
The Bulls confirmed his death on Tuesday.
A Chicago native, Krause was both revered and reviled in his hometown.
After taking over as Bulls general manager in 1985, Krause was responsible for bringing together the pieces around Michael Jordan that led to six championships.
He hired Phil Jackson from the Continental Basketball Association as an assistant to coach Doug Collins and eventually fired Collins in favor of the unconventional Jackson. The move raised questions because Collins had led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in 1988 and '89, losing to the eventual champion Detroit Pistons.
Jackson's maneuvering of superstar personalities, though, was later seen as a big part of the Bulls' sustained success.
Besides getting Jackson, Krause worked a 1987 draft-day trade to get Scottie Pippen out of obscure Central Arkansas and drafted Horace Grant. The Grant selection made it possible to trade popular power forward Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks for center Bill Cartwright in 1988. With Jordan, those players formed the core of the first three Bulls titles in 1991-93.
After Jordan briefly retired in 1993 and then returned in 1995, the Bulls had more work to do. Krause signed guard Ron Harper and acquired Dennis Rodman to replace Grant, who had bolted in free agency. Krause had also drafted Toni Kukoc out of Croatia in 1990, before it was popular to select players from overseas. Kukoc became a key part of the second three-peat.
After three more titles from 1996 to 1998, however, the wheels came off. A simmering feud with Jackson led to the coach's departure. Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets, and Jordan retired for the second time in 1999.
On Twitter, Pippen acknowledged he and Krause "didn't always see eye to eye," but praised Krause's work.
Krause had an incredible eye for talent & that applied to coaches too. Brought in @PhilJackson11 & Tex Winter, both crucial to our success.
— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) March 21, 2017
Despite being named NBA Executive of the Year twice, Krause was often blamed for the disintegration of the dynasty that he had been such a big part of building.
Tim Floyd became the new coach, and the Bulls drafted Elton Brand No. 1 in 1999, but Chicago never won more than 30 games in a season before Krause retired from the Bulls in 2003. Despite the dramatic fall-off, during Krause's 18 seasons as Chicago's GM, the Bulls won more games (808) than any other Eastern Conference team, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In a statement, Michael Jordan said: "Jerry was a key figure in the Bulls' dynasty and meant so much to the Bulls, White Sox and City of Chicago." He added: "My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Thelma, his family and friends."
Jackson also weighed in.
"The news of Jerry Krause's death is a sad day for the Chicago Bulls and the entire NBA community," he said. "He was a man determined to create a winning team in Chicago -- his hometown. Jerry was known as 'The Sleuth' for his secrecy, but it was no secret that he built the dynasty in Chicago. We, who were part of his vision in that run, remember him today."
Current Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg also praised Krause.
"He was a great person and we just saw him; he came to one of our practices earlier in the year and it was good to be able to spend some time with him,'' said Hoiberg, who also played for the organization during Krause's tenure.
The Toronto Raptors, who were hosting the Bulls on Tuesday night, took time to acknowledge Krause's death.
Before getting the Bulls GM job, Krause was an NBA scout for numerous teams and then a baseball scout for the Chicago White Sox, whose owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, also owned the Bulls.
"The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause," Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Jerry was one of the hardest working guys I have ever been around, and he was one of the best talent evaluators ever. Jerry played an integral role in our run of six championships in eight years. He truly was the architect of all our great teams in the '90s. I would not have been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame if it were not for Jerry. We will miss him tremendously, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife Thelma and the Krause family."
In recent years, Krause had returned to baseball scouting, working for the Yankees, Mets and White Sox again. He was named a special assistant to the scouting department of the Diamondbacks in 2011.
Krause was a finalist this year for induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor.
Bulls executive vice president John Paxson, who played for the Bulls from 1985 to 1994, says it's unfortunate Krause didn't make the Hall in his lifetime.
"Jerry was a hard worker; he was a grinder," Paxson said Tuesday on ESPN 1000's Waddle and Silvy Show. "He loved getting down in the mud and evaluating talent. He deserves -- it's one of those things. I think at the Hall of Fame this past year when Jerry Reinsdorf was enshrined he said it. [Reinsdorf] was there because of the teams that Jerry Krause put together. And it's a shame -- I'm confident someday Jerry Krause will be in the Hall of Fame, but it's one of those sad things now where it won't be while he's still with us and can be acknowledged for what he did accomplish."
According to The Chicago Tribune, a memorial service for Krause will be held April 9.