How Jerry Krause's Bulls Collapsed After Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson Left

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2020

Chicago Bulls' general manager Jerry Krause talks to reporters at the Bulls' practice facility in Deerfield, Ill., June 3, 1993.  Bulls' star Michael Jordan continued his vow of silence with the media despite a new book's claims that he lost over a million dollars in golf bets in 10 days in 1991. Krause also declined to discuss it saying it was a private matter for Jordan.  (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
FRED JEWELL/Associated Press

Six championships in seven seasons.

While Michael Jordan famously stepped away from basketball during the 1993-94 season and the majority of the 1994-95 campaign, that is what happened in the seven full seasons he played with Phil Jackson as his head coach.

The Chicago Bulls don't even have another NBA Finals appearance, let alone a championship, during their other 45 seasons as an organization when Jackson was not the head coach.

It seems fitting that the worst stretch in franchise history came in the years immediately following the breakup of the dynasty that dominated the NBA in the 1990s.

A major theme of The Last Dance documentary has been general manager Jerry Krause's insistence that Jackson's final season with the team would be the 1997-98 one and Jordan's counter that he wouldn't play for another coach.

The Bulls surely want the decision to move on from Jackson and, in turn, Jordan back in hindsight even if Krause's relationship with the coach and star player was toxic at that point.

To call the immediate aftermath of their departures a collapse would be an understatement. Here's how the next six seasons played out before Chicago finally returned to the playoffs again in 2005 under head coach Scott Skiles.

  • 1998-99: 13-37 record under head coach Tim Floyd
  • 1999-2000: 17-65 record under head coach Tim Floyd
  • 2000-01: 15-67 record under head coach Tim Floyd
  • 2001-02: 21-61 record under coaches Tim Floyd, Bill Berry and Bill Cartwright
  • 2002-03: 30-52 record under head coach Bill Cartwright
  • 2003-04: 23-59 record under coaches Bill Cartwright, Pete Myers and Scott Skiles

To make matters worse for Chicago, Jackson continued his legendary coaching career with the Los Angeles Lakers and won five championships with players such as Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol.

One of those championships came during the 1999-2000 season and included a dramatic seven-game victory over Scottie Pippen's Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.

Following the 1998 title, Pippen played one season with the Houston Rockets and four with Portland before returning to the Bulls and appearing in 23 games during the 2003-04 campaign. While he was never quite the same player he was during his prime, he was a veteran leader, secondary scorer and solid defender who helped guide those Western Conference teams into the playoffs.

Chicago sent Pippen to the Rockets in a sign-and-trade for Roy Rogers and a second-round pick but eventually waived Rogers before he ever played a game for the team.

As for Jordan, he retired in 1998 with Jackson no longer in Chicago but eventually returned to play for the Washington Wizards during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, averaging 21.2 points per game during that span despite three full seasons away from the game and being 38 and 39 years old.

Elsewhere, the Bulls released Dennis Rodman, sent Steve Kerr to the San Antonio Spurs as part of a sign-and-trade for Chuck Person and a 2000 first-round draft pick, and traded Luc Longley to the Phoenix Suns for Mark Bryant, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells and a 1999 first-round draft pick.

Of the players acquired in the sign-and-trade moves, only Bryant ever played a game for the Bulls.

Disbanding the championship core was far from the only issue for the Bulls before Krause's tenure ended in April 2003. The high-profile free-agency miss in 2000 of Tracy McGrady despite the general manager meeting him at the airport haunted the team for years, and many of the Bulls' draft picks during that span did not work out.

They landed Elton Brand with the No. 1 pick and Ron Artest with the No. 16 pick in the 1999 draft, but both of them played the best basketball of their careers elsewhere. Chicago ultimately traded Brand for Tyson Chandler, who also played his best basketball later in his career after his time in the Windy City and never completely found his footing on the Bulls.

The 2000 draft was much worse, as the team selected Marcus Fizer with the No. 4 pick, Dalibor Bagaric at No. 24 and the combination of A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl and Khalid El-Amin in the second round.

In 2001, Chicago landed Eddy Curry at No. 4 and Trenton Hassell at No. 30.

That's not exactly a list of Hall of Famers in back-to-back drafts, and the misses set the franchise back in its rebuilding efforts.

It seemed as if the Bulls had a promising point guard of the future when they selected Duke's Jay Williams with the No. 2 pick in 2002, but his career was cut short after just one season because of injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash.

While Krause is largely painted as the villain and a foil to Jordan's excellence in the documentary, he deserves some credit for helping build one of the best teams in sports history that featured an ideal supporting cast around basketball's greatest player in the 1990s.

He was just unable to replicate anything close to that in the years that followed.