Jerry Krause, the longtime Gonzaga director of basketball operations and former Eastern Washington men’s basketball coach who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame last year, died Wednesday evening from stage 4 colon cancer.
Krause, who’d been residing at his longtime home in Fish Lake, was receiving hospice care according to an e-mail notice sent last week to Gonzaga faculty and staff. He was 87 years old.
In the Inland Northwest, Krause is associated with his 17-year run as Eastern Washington’s coach along with his tenure with Gonzaga’s basketball program during the Bulldogs’ rise to national prominence under coach Mark Few.
Krause won 292 games during his time in Cheney, overseeing the Eagles’ move from NAIA to Division II and eventually to Division I.
Following his tenure at EWU, Krause briefly served as a part-time assistant at Gonzaga before returning to the school in 2001, when he’d inherit the director of basketball operations position – a title Krause held for the Bulldogs until 2015.
“I never regretted it, (not) a minute,” Krause said of his career last year. “I had a magical career of being at high school, college and then being at Gonzaga. All of those 20 years were special.”
Krause also had a longstanding relationship with Gonzaga women’s coach Lisa Fortier, who was living in Monterey, California, and working for Coaches Choice – a publishing company that produced Krause’s skills and fundamentals books.
While seeking a graduate assistant coaching job, Fortier and husband Craig – now an assistant for the Bulldogs women – were advised to visit Krause in Spokane. Krause covered travel costs when the Fortiers flew to Spokane, toured them around the Gonzaga campus and housed the couple for three months after both secured graduate positions on Kelly Graves’ women’s staff.
“I just think the basketball community is kind of synonymous with coach Krause,” Fortier said. “Someone who really cared about doing things the right way and I’m just really grateful we had a chance to interact with him and our experience was unique.”
After retiring from the Gonzaga men’s staff, Krause served as a volunteer assistant on Fortier’s staff for eight years.
“The way he cared, that’s the thing you can remember,” Fortier said. “I can hear him giggling, but the way he cared about people and just the way he really invested. He passed on some parts of life people aren’t willing to pass on … he was committed to the student-athletes and the teaching.”
A native of Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, Krause has also contributed to the game on a broader scale, serving on a variety of national committees, authoring best-selling instructional books and producing coaching videos related to basketball basics and fundamentals.
During a phone interview last May after his National Basketball Hall of Fame induction, Krause revealed to The Spokesman-Review he was two years into a battle with colon cancer.
Krause was boarding a plane for the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas when he collapsed from heart complications, which required him to undergo heart surgery. After a successful procedure, Krause returned for a post-operation checkup and doctors discovered his colon cancer.
“I’m going to beat it, I’m going to find a way to beat it,” Krause told the S-R. “There hasn’t been too many positive outcomes there, but I’ll find a way.”
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Krause obtained a degree in engineering but pursued a career in basketball instead and used his math/science background to explore certain aspects of the game. He teamed up with partner Bruce Abbott to work on a rim-measuring tool from 1984-92.
For more than 30 years, Krause headed the research committee for the National Association of Basketball Coaches and he also served as the NCAA’s rules chairperson for basketball – a position he assumed in 1986. Krause served on the rules committee longer than anyone else in the organization’s history, he told the S-R, and helped oversee the adoption of the shot clock and 3-point line, among other things.
“They were game-changing rules I got to do research on and I told them at the time we put in the 3-point line, I said I think we need more research,” Krause said. “I think it’s going to be too close. It was laughable, that first year it was so close.”
Krause wrote a best-selling instructional book, “Basketball Skills & Drills,” in 1999 and authored another fundamentals book “Basketball Skill Progressions” in 2003, with Curtis Janz and James Conn. In total, he’s published more than 30 books related to the game.
“I think he’s far and away the most published guy on basketball,” Few said. “He was also an incredible clinician. He was doing clinics up to the very end. He was at the Final Four this year doing a clinic.”
Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski wrote the foreword for the fourth edition of “Basketball Skills and Drills.”
“It’s the most widely sold and used fundamentals book in the world now,” Krause said. “It all fit together. I just loved teaching fundamentals.”
Before the analytics movement swept through college basketball, Krause was crunching numbers for the Zags, analyzing offensive and defensive statistics and creating unique rebounding charts.
Krause was also a pioneer in helping Gonzaga track points per possession – a metric still used by Few’s coaching staff to this day.
“All the different charts they had, the analytics side piece, the contacts he had with scheduling – he was just as good a human being and as good a man that dedicated his life to the game, but for the right reasons,” Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti told the S-R last year after Krause’s HOF induction. “There just aren’t that many people like that out there.”
Bill Grier, a former Gonzaga assistant from 1991-2007 who serves as an assistant at the University of Colorado, recalled Krause overseeing the fundamentals/skills portion of summer team camps in Spokane – often conducted over three or four hours in sweltering conditions on GU’s old tennis courts.
“Jerry’s big thing, I just remember him to (Few) and I and (Dan) Monson was giving back to the game,” Grier said in a phone interview last spring. “And he’d talk to the players about giving back to the game. The opportunity you’ve been given, you need to give back to the game.
“I think it just fueled his passion and why he just authored so many different books and did so many different studies, because he really just wanted to help the game grow and improve it.”
Krause is survived by his wife of more than 25 years, Cathy Kelly.
“Jerry was just a great friend to everybody who has ever been through Gonzaga,” Few said. “Whether they played here, coached here or just been around here. He always talked about having an attitude of gratitude and I think he really exemplified that in his life.”