Rockets’ Kevin McHale says Jerry Krause being unfairly portrayed

Houston Rockets Kevin McHale (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Kevin McHale (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Like all of us, former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale has been glued in to The Last Dance. But McHale says former Bulls GM Jerry Krause is wrongly being made out to be a villain.

Basketball fans have been glued to the ESPN docu-series The Last Dance, which chronicles the Chicago Bulls’ last championship in franchise history. We’ve even heard from players who played during that era, as they too have been tuned in, despite already knowing much of what’s been chronicled. Former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale has also been tuned in, which isn’t surprising considering how McHale’s Boston Celtics swept Michael Jordan and the Bulls in consecutive postseasons.

Although McHale has certainly enjoyed seeing his Celtics beat Jordan’s Bulls, he hasn’t exactly enjoyed the way former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause has been portrayed. McHale was speaking on The Usual Suspects, which airs on ESPN’s 97.5 The Game and had the below to say.

Jerry kind of looked like a villain, and he’s not a bad guy. He really wasn’t a bad guy. He was pretty easy to deal with as a GM when I dealt with him. He did put together a heck of a team. I do think there was too much of everybody ripping him because Michael wasn’t his pick.

Krause has certainly gotten alot of slander, in part because he was hell-bent on breaking up a championship team like the Bulls. Krause was openly shopping Scottie Pippen, made no secret of the fact that he didn’t want Phil Jackson coaching the Bulls in the long run, and nearly sent Dennis Rodman to the Houston Rockets as well.

These are generally not the type of moves one would expect to see from a team that had won three consecutive championships, and many believe it was because Krause wanted all the credit for the Bulls’ success. Krause wanted to rebuild the Bulls his way and wanted to lift them back to contender status, without Pippen and Jackson especially.

This led to Jordan developing a resentment towards him, which resulted in a public back and forth through the media. For as bad as some of this had made Krause look, the reality is then Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf had the final say, and could’ve intervened and prevented any of Krause’s dealings. What gets overlooked is the fact that Krause essentially transformed Phil Jackson from an assistant coach to arguably the greatest coach in NBA history, while also adding Dennis Rodman and Toni Kukoc, not to mention drafting Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.

Krause built that Bulls team that Bulls team, and he was a two-time Executive of the Year recipient because of it. McHale mentioned his dealings with Krause as a GM, but the Bulls and McHale’s Timberwolves were never involved in a trade with each other, so it’s worth questioning exactly how much he actually dealt with Krause.

McHale added the below comments about Krause:

I almost felt bad when I saw how he was portrayed. Jerry’s not that bad of a guy, he really wasn’t. I actually enjoyed him. That was not the best portrayal, especially for a guy that’s passed away and has no say in it. That kind of saddened me a little bit.

One of the biggest criticisms about how Krause has been represented is the fact that he’s not able to share his side of the story and his version of events. Krause passed away in 2017 at the age of 77, due to a bone infection called osteomyelitis, among other health challenges.

It would add a much different level of intrigue if we were able to hear his reasoning and justification behind his desired moves, and his thoughts on the criticism he’s received from Pippen and Jordan. It would at least be fair, because he could respond to what’s being said about him, and have the opportunity to set the record straight.

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We may even have a different perspective of Jordan and Pippen’s handling of Krause. But above all else McHale is right, Krause’s representation has been saddening.