Karen Stack Umlauf: Bulls Basketball Coach And Trailblazer

George Ofman
March 09, 2019 - 9:00 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Karen Stack Umlauf has gone from a star basketball player at Northwestern to the Bulls Director of team operations and associate coach. 

It’s been quite a life for the Oak Forest native, who joined the Bulls marketing department in 1984 but was quickly nabbed by then-General Manager Jerry Krause, who brought her into the basketball operations. She made history last year when she was named the first female coach for the team.

“Sometimes when I look at that, it’s incredible to think about the different phases of my life,” Stack Umlauf said. “With Jerry Krause’s passing, I was thinking a lot about those early days and being close to what the team was doing.” 

So Stack Umlauf proposed her new role with John Paxson, vice president of basketball operations for the Bulls.

“I didn’t have to convince him very much," she said.  

Watch George Ofman's interview with Stack Umlauf.



She actually picked up Paxson from the airport when he was traded to the Bulls from the San Antonio Spurs in 1985, and he remembered her from her Northwestern days. She remembered they went to shoot hoops after arriving in Chicago, thus strengthening their bond on and off the court.

Stack Umlauf starting going to more shooting arounds and participating in game preps, getting to know the players and staff. She admits being a basketball junkie, but at age 56, relishes the intense preparation it takes for an NBA game.

“I love it. I’m invigorated by it," she said.

 Embarking on her new journey, Stack Umlauf is thrilled but knows she has to learn to be a better assistant coach. Her history indicates she’s on the right track.