Jerry Krause

Former Bulls center, coach Bill Cartwright defends Jerry Krause's legacy

'The man in the middle' who served as co-captain on first three-peat team pens open letter

Bill Cartwright started at center during the Bulls' first three-peat and later coached the franchise.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Bill Cartwright is an avid listener and deep, deliberate thinker.

But when he speaks, people tend to listen. Just witness the fact he earned the nickname “Teach,” as in teacher, when he started at center on the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat teams. Or the facts that coach Phil Jackson named Cartwright a co-captain along with Michael Jordan and he served as an assistant coach on the second three-peat teams and that general manager Jerry Krause hired him as head coach when Krause moved on from his failed Tim Floyd tenure.

Krause also traded Jordan’s best buddy, Charles Oakley, to the Knicks in June 1988 for Cartwright, a move that Jordan didn’t like but that ultimately proved one of many Krause made that aided the Bulls’ championship quests.

Cartwright watched Krause draw boos at last Friday’s Ring of Honor ceremony, moving Krause’s widow, Thelma, to emotion. The story drew national headlines, with even the syndicated newsmagazine “Inside Edition” covering it.

Thelma Krause received an outpouring of support from all over the NBA, including commissioner Adam Silver, and beyond. Cartwright, as is his nature, took some time to measure his thoughts, which he reached out to NBC Sports Chicago to share via this open letter.

Cartwright currently serves as Director of University Initiatives at his alma mater, University of San Francisco.

Throughout the course of my career, whether at USF, the New York Knicks or the Chicago Bulls, I have always watched, thought and, when it was the appropriate time, spoke.

The sight of Thelma Krause being booed while representing her husband--who was arguably one of the best general managers of all-time---was horrifying.

I knew Jerry and Thelma on a personal level. Jerry was a very inquisitive person, a great storyteller and a great GM. I enjoyed listening to his stories, especially baseball, as I was a huge baseball fan. I had a chance to scout with Jerry when he was scouting DeSagana Diop. Jerry had great insight into basketball and how to build a team with complementary players.

Thank God for Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf; they thought enough of me to trade me out of New York and to Chicago. It was a new start on my career and gave me a chance to win (multiple) NBA championships.

While playing for Chicago during a game with Indiana (in the 1993-94 season), I was hit in the throat. It left my larynx fractured and my left vocal cord paralyzed. It was truly devastating as I had no voice for a year. Jerry found the best throat doctor, Dr. Robert Sataloff in Philadelphia, to help me get my voice back. I don’t have a perfect voice now, but I do at least have one thanks to Jerry.

It’s a shame that only a few people truly knew what a kind person Jerry was.

How can something like winning six championships be that bad? How can the architect of those six championships be that bad?

Some of the best years of my life were when I was a Chicago Bull. This display, honestly, it does tarnish that legacy somewhat for me.

To the Chicago Bulls fans who booed, understand that not all the heroes of those amazing championship runs were on the court. Jerry Krause was instrumental to every single championship the Bulls won.


Bill Cartwright

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