CHICAGO — There are two schools of thought about Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause.
Critics suggest Krause is an opportunist, riding the success of Michael Jordan and the work of Coach Doug Collins.
Others--and they are in the majority within the Bulls' family--maintain Krause is a crafty workaholic, the main driving force behind a resurgent franchise.
Krause may be enjoying the last laugh as his club is host to today's NBA All-Star game. The Bulls have been well above .500 all season and for the first time in more than a decade are a legitimate playoff contender, playing before sellout crowds.
Regardless of whether people are pro or con on the vice president of basketball operations for the club, Krause remains unperturbed.
"My job was to build this franchise and turn it around," Krause says. "We've gotten started, and we're on the road toward that end."
Krause was hired by Bulls' owner Jerry Reinsdorf in March 1985 to oversee the operations for a club that has been muddled in mediocrity almost since its inception. Reinsdorf knew Krause from the work Krause did as a scout for Reinsdorf's other interest--the Chicago White Sox.
"Jerry is driven. He works harder than almost anyone I know," Reinsdrof says. "Sometimes he goes a little too overboard with his excitement and what he says. But believe me, no one is more dedicated to his job."
Collins also might have been a skeptic when Krause brought him aboard as the Bulls coach in 1986.
"Then I saw how hard he worked. The 16-18 hour days the guy puts in. You might not realize it but this guy lives, eats and drinks basketball," Collins says.
Krause hardly fits the role of a pro basketball executive. In a sport where former players enter management or coaching and tower in the 6-foot-5 and over range, Krause is a hefty and diminutive 5-foot-5.
But Krause has been in the NBA for 19 years, dating back to the original Chicago franchise--the Zephyrs (which eventually transferred to become the present Washington Bullets).
He takes responsibility for helping to build the Bullets by scouting the likes of Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld.
Krause eventually got back to the Bulls in the 1970s, helping to draft standouts like Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Clifford Ray. But it is his present stint with Chicago in which Krause enjoys the highest visibility.
He isn't afraid to gamble, a quality that enabled him to convince Bulls' ownership to sign Collins.
"Here was a guy without any head coaching experience in the NBA. A lot of the writers got on me for that. But I knew that he had the right qualities to be a coach when he was a player," Krause says. "And he had done some college coaching. And now he is considered one of the top young coaches in the NBA."
Krause also seems to shine on draft day. He has wheeled and dealed with Bulls personnel in more than two years with 19 separate trades, many engineered on draft day.
His most notable came in his first draft as vice president of the Bulls. Chicago worked a deal that sent its original first round draft choice, Keith Lee, to Cleveland for an unknown Division II forward named Charles Oakley.
"No one had heard about him, but we had scouted him and knew what he was capable of," Krause recalls.
Oakley was a surprise success in his first two years in the NBA and is considered one of the premier rebounders in the league.
Last summer, Krause was at it again. He swung three deals on draft day, eventually getting Horace Grant of Clemson and what has become the Krause trademark--an unknown small college player named Scottie Pippen.
"He was our secret. Again, we had seen Scottie play in Central Arkansas and knew he could make it. We thought we had it under wraps until he showed up so well at the scouts camp," Krause says. "Well, we had to make some deals to make sure we got him. But we did get him."
Despite his penchant for hard work and the high marks he receives from scouts and fellow general managers, Krause still hasn't gotten over the hump with Chicago.
The Bulls are still considered a one-dimensional team with Jordan, a player drafted by Krause's predecessor, Rod Thorn. It is Jordan that is attracting the big crowds and who is principally responsible for Chicago's rise to the .500 level.