The biggest loser of “The Last Dance” was, without question, Jerry Krause. The legendary Chicago Bulls general manager was portrayed as the villain of the series, an egomaniac determined to win a championship without the shadows of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson looming over him. While the documentary brought that portrayal back to light, it is largely how the Bulls treated Krause for three decades.
And that was something that Krause was never going to forgive. Years after leaving the Bulls, he even had the chance to do so.
“Years later, when Phil was coaching the Lakers and they were coming to Phoenix, I’d have lunch with him,” Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “At one of those lunches, he said, ‘I’d really like to bury the hatchet with Jerry,’ and he asked me to be the middleman.”
But Krause rejected the offer when Reinsdorf reached out to him. Reinsdorf considers it an act of pride.
“I would tell Jerry, ‘Get over it, get over it already.'” Reinsdorf said. “But Jerry was a lover scorned. He was so proud of the fact that he had found Phil [in the Continental Basketball Association] and he turned out to be a brilliant coach. Then when he felt that Phil turned on him, he was not going to like Phil again.”
In particular, Krause couldn’t get over his treatment at the hands of Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Both had a number of axes to grind with their general manager. Jordan routinely questioned Krause’s moves, including trading his close friend Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright, while Pippen was perpetually angry about his below-market-value contract. Krause thought that Jackson could have been an intermediary in that relationship but chose not to be.
“He thought that Phil could’ve stopped Michael and Scottie from being so adversarial,” Reinsdorf said. “Phil could’ve stepped in, he could’ve stopped it, and it really bothered Jerry.”
The two will be indelibly linked forever. Krause discovered Jackson and brought him to the NBA. Jackson won Krause all six of his championship rings. Yet at the time of his death in 2017, Krause was never publicly known to have reconciled with Jackson. The cost of winning championships for Chicago, it seems, were the relationships they built along the way.