(CBS) — Jerry Krause, the former Bulls general manager who was the architect of the organization’s six NBA titles in the 1990s, has died at 77.

Krause served as the Bulls’ general manager/executive vice president for basketball operations from 1985-2003 and was a two-time league executive of the year. He had been battling health problems for years, including osteomyelitis, the Tribune reported.

“The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Jerry Krause,” Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Jerry was one of the hardest working guys I have ever been around, and he was one of the best talent evaluators ever. Jerry played an integral role in our run of six championships in eight years. He truly was the architect of all our great teams in the ’90s. I would not have been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame if it were not for Jerry. We will miss him tremendously, and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife Thelma and the Krause family.”

Krause’s resume makes him the most successful general manager in Chicago sports history. While Krause inherited Michael Jordan upon taking over in 1985, he made a long line of shrewd moves to build a championship team around Jordan. His best moves included maneuvering on draft night in 1987 to select Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, two foundational pieces as the Bulls rose to prominence.

Pippen and Krause had their differences through the years, in part regarding Pippen’s contract, but Pippen on Tuesday praised Krause for all he did.

Krause also hired Phil Jackson out of the Continental Basketball League in 1987 to be an assistant coach and later promoted him to head coach in 1989.

Krause is a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in the contributor category.

“I owe a lot to Jerry,” Bulls executive and former player John Paxson said. “If it weren’t for him bringing me to Chicago in 1985, I probably never would have been a Bull. He had a great eye for talent, and his ability to build a team is unrivaled. He’s one of the best the league has ever seen.”

Krause actually got his start in sports as a baseball scout with the Cubs in the early 1960s. He was then a basketball scout for the Bullets, Suns, Lakers and Bulls (1969-’71) before going back to baseball. He was working for the White Sox when Reinsdorf asked him to be the Bulls’ general manager in 1985.

As a basketball talent evaluator, Krause was credited with drafted Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Pippen as well as the likes of Jerry Sloans, Norm Van Lier, Clifford Ray, Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon.

In his years after leaving the Bulls, Krause had done work as a baseball scout, most recently for the Diamondbacks before retiring from that role last year.

Krause was raised in the Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park. He’s survived by his wife, Thelma; two children, Stacy and David; and four grandchildren.