Jerry Krause Was Right

By George Ofman

The quote will haunt him forever. Or is that the misquote?

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  • It was dredged up again last week when Michael Jordan was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. His widely criticized acceptance speech took aim at several people whom he claimed motivated him to be a better player. Not that Jerry Krause was a very motivational individual.

    But there he was again, a figure of disdain for that quote.

    "Organizations win championships."

    Wrong then, wrong now, yet right!

    What the former Bulls general manager really said was "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations win championships.

    He was never more right.

    Scorn lasts like a bad memory.

    All of this came to light again when Krause declined to attend Jordan's big party in Springfield, Massachusetts. He claimed it was his way of protesting the Hall of Fame's snubbing of Tex Winter, the architect of the triangle offense which Jordan embraced during the Bulls run to six NBA titles. Most pundits didn't buy it, suggesting it was Krause's way of steering clear of Jordan, who verbally abused him for years.

    Not that Krause didn't deserve it from time to time.

    We all know there is no love lost in this relationship. Krause was reviled by Jordan and a number of players, the media and the fans.

    ESPN's Bill Simmons once characterized Krause as "an ugly little toad of a man," adding that "his legacy is that of an ego-driven, stubborn, humorless vindictive liar who drove Jordan away and destroyed a dynasty."

    We'll give Simmons his right to paint Krause as he pleases, but the fact is that Krause didn't drive Jordan away and the dynasty was over.

    There is no denying Krause's was a polarizing figure. Gracious and popular did not headline his business card.

    But this is not about Krause's lack of personality. It's about the quote.

    "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations win championships."

    For this, Krause was unfairly blistered again by Jordan during his rip 'em all speech.

    "Jerry's not here" said Jordan. "I don't know who didn't invite him. I didn't. I hope he knows it goes a long way. He's a very competitive person. I was a very competitive person. He said organizations win championships. I didn't see organizations win championships with the flu in Utah. I didn't see it playing with a bad ankle."

    In Jerry's Words:
  • "What I said in the original quote was players and coaches alone don't win championships. Somebody has to find players and those are scouts. Somebody has to put other players on the floor. Somebody has to keep them in shape and medically take care of them. Somebody has to pay them."

  • It's too bad Jordan doesn't get it. Even though he's the main reason why the Bulls captured six titles, it was Krause who built the team around him because, as everyone should know, one man alone does not win a championship.

    LeBron James hasn't done it yet. Where's his Scottie Pippen, or Horace Grant, or Bill Cartwright or John Paxson?

    Did you know Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant didn't win the first of their three consecutive titles until Jerry West hired Phil Jackson to replace Del Harris?

    That was an organizational move.

    Whether you despise, loathe, abhor, detest or simply dislike Krause, his point is right on.

    Remember, the Bulls didn't win their first title until Jordan's seventh season. He was the constant, but not the variable.

    Indeed, some of Krause's attempts to build a team around Jordan failed at first. But the 1987 draft of Pippen and Grant began the process of turning a one-man act into a show-stopping success.

    And when Jordan returned from his bout with baseball, Krause managed to re-cast the show. Co-star Pippen remained, but newcomers Kukoc, Rodman, Harper, Longley, Kerr, Wennington and a few others helped support Jordan in the run for a second threepeat.

    Yes, without Jordan, probably no more championships.

    But also without Pippen, Rodman, Harper, Kerr and Phil Jackson.

    "Players and coaches alone don't win championships, organizations do."

    Jerry Krause was right then and he's right now. Just give the man his just due and let him live in peace.


    George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.

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