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Purdue ICONS #10: Joe Barry Carroll

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We're to the top ten of our list and the #10 player is one that did not have the best of reputations in the pros. Still, he did something that hasn't been done in 31 years: He took the Boilermakers to the Final Four. He ended his Purdue career as the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and as one of the most decorated players in school history. With 394 votes in the poll, Joe Barry Carroll is the #10 Purdue ICON according to you readers.

Carroll's High School Career

Basketball recruiting was completely different 35 years ago when Carroll was a promising young center from Denver, Colorado was tearing up the high school ranks. At Denver East High Carroll grew into a 7'1" center that was virtually unstoppable. He averaged 20.3 points and 12.2 rebounds as a senior and was selected as an All-American.

Fred Schaus was coaching at Purdue that season, and he successfully convinced Carroll to bring his game east to Purdue. He came in as an even more productive JaJuan Johnson as a freshman, and made an immediate impact.

Purdue Career:

During the 1976-77 season an NCAA Tournament berth was still a rarity for most teams, Purdue including. Up until then our Boilers had appeared in just one NCAA Tourney. Only 32 teams were invited to the 1977 tournament, and it wasn't long before that (1974) that only 25 teams got invited. The 1975 tournament was the first in which at large teams were allowed instead of conference champions only.

The 1976-77 season started with a pair of losses at Alabama and Miami (OH), but Purdue quickly righted the ship to go 19-9 overall and 13-5 in the Big Ten. Carroll was a big part of that, recording Purdue's first ever triple double with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 blocked shots in December. For the season, Carroll blocked 82 shots and averaged a freshman record 7.4 rebounds per game. He often came off the bench, but was a huge difference maker. His 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Indiana helped us upset the defending champion Hoosiers 86-78 in West Lafayette. Purdue beat Indiana both times that season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. A 69-66 loss to fourth-ranked North Carolina ended the season, but the Tar Heels went on to the National title game.

Carroll's sophomore season saw him move into the starting lineup, where all of his numbers improved. He averaged 15.6 points per game and 10.7 rebounds. He also shot better than 50% from the field and swatted a school record 105 shots in 27 games. That was good enough to be named a 2nd team All-Big Ten selection as his reputation grew. On the floor, Purdue's record decreased. The Boilers went just 16-11 and did not play in the postseason.

By the time Carroll was a junior he was one of the most feared players in all of college basketball. His 1978-79 season was the first of two consecutive All-America seasons, earning him a banner that hangs in Mackey Arena. He averaged 22.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and blocked another 70 shots as the most dominant center in the country. His shooting percentage from the field was north of 58% too. His 798 points scored ranks third for a single season in school history behind Rick Mount (932 in 1969) and Big Dog's astounding 1,030 points in 1994.

Under new coach Lee Rose Purdue improved greatly on the season. The Boilers went 27-8 and 13-5 in the Big Ten. One of the highlights was a 52-50 win at home over #1 Michigan State on January 13th. The Spartans, of course, went on to win the NCAA title that year. Purdue also dropped a game early in the season to Indiana State with some guy named Larry Bird. Despite being ranked 16th in the final season poll, Purdue did not get invited to the NCAA Tournament. Purdue tied with Michigan State for the Big Ten crown, but the committee selected MSU instead (even with an expanded 40 teams). The NIT came calling, and Purdue advanced all the way to New York before losing to Indiana 53-52 in the championship game.

Carroll elected to return for his senior season after grabbing a school record 352 rebounds. He felt Purdue had unfinished business, and he was right. IN Rose's final season as coach the Boilers spent most of the year in the top 15 and finished 23-10, but were only 11-7 in a hotly contested Big Ten. Fortunately, another NCAA Tournament expansion bumped the field to 48 teams. Purdue was selected as a #6 seed in the Mideast region, and one of our greatest tournament runs ever followed.

Purdue was also a host institution that year, playing the first two rounds at home. We defeated LaSalle 90-82, then used our home court advantage to upset #3 seed St. John's 87-72. #2 seed Indiana was next, and we were able to gain revenge with a 76-69 win over the Hoosiers at Rupp Arena. Purdue then earned its second trip to the Final Four with a 68-60 win over Duke in the regional final.

Just like in 1969, UCLA (who was a freakin' #8 seed) ended the dream of a national title with a 67-62 win in the national semifinals. Purdue did get to play in one of the final third place games and had an easy 75-58 win over Iowa in Carroll's final game at Purdue. Carroll saved his best for last with a 35-point explosion and earned yet another All-America selection for the year. He ended his Purdue career first in career rebounds (1,148), first in blocked shots (349), and second in points (2,175).

Pro Career

Carroll was the overwhelming choice as the #1 overall selection in the 1980 NBA Draft. It was the first time a Purdue player was selected #1 overall, and with the Big Dog's #1 selection in 1994 Purdue is one of just seven schools with more than one #1 overall selection. The Golden State Warriors were very pleased to take him #1 overall, and his first season was a success. He averaged 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds as a rookie and got placed on the All-Rookie team. In retrospect, many give him a negative image because he disliked talking to the press and the Warriors traded Robert Parrish and a draft pick (later used on Kevin McHale) to get the pick for Carroll. The Celtics would go on to win three NBA championships with those players.

In six seasons for the Warriors Carroll put up solid numbers. Despite skipping the entire 1984-85 season to play in Italy, Carroll was a solid 20 point nine rebound guy. His best season was 1982-83 when he averaged 24.1 points per game. Unfortunately, the Warriors wouldn't make the playoffs until the 1986-87 season. That would be his best playoff year of four during his career. He averaged 18.9 points and and 6.5 rebounds in 10 playoff games as Golden State reached the Western Conference semifinals. Carroll had his only NBA All-Star selection that season. He is a top ten career franchise leader in defensive rebounds (3rd), offensive rebounds (4th), points per game (8th), total points (9th) and steals (9th). He scored at least 1,000 points in each of his seasons as a Warrior.

That was Carroll's last great season. He signed with the Houston Rockets in the offseason and his numbers declined from over 20 points per game to 12.7 as the Rockets lost in the first round of the playoffs. They then traded him to the Nets, where he averaged 14.1 points per game. The next season he was traded midseason to his hometown Denver Nuggets. He averaged 11.9 points and helped lead Denver to the playoffs, but that wasn't enough to keep him in Denver. The Phoenix Suns signed him for on last season in 1990-91, but he played in only 11 games before retiring.

For his NBA career he finished with a modest 12,455 points and 5.404 rebounds. That's good for an average of 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Not bad for a guy nicknamed as "Joe Barely Cares" and one that is considered a huge Draft bust. For example, the infamous Darko Miličić has averaged only 6.1 points per game, so I would consider him a much bigger bust than Carroll. Carroll is considered a bust mostly because he put up big numbers on a bad team and never made it past the second round of the playoffs.


Carroll has had a successful career as an investment advisor in the Atlanta area. He made headlines in 2006 when he and a friend faced racial discrimination at an Atlanta area restaurant, as described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

When Carroll and a lawyer-friend refused management's requests to give up their seats at the bar to two white women, they were escorted out by security.

In 2008, Carroll and Joseph Shaw filed a lawsuit against the Tavern.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that the case should go to trial. While U.S. Magistrate Janet King found there was no direct evidence of racial discrimination, she did find enough circumstantial evidence to let a jury decide whether racial animosity was the Tavern's motivation to remove Carroll and Shaw - "the only two black people in the restaurant," Carroll says - from the premises.

The case has yet to proceed to trial, but it is ridiculous that Carroll had to face even this type of discrimination in this day and age. Carroll has agreed that any damages he wins in the suit will be donated to charities that he supports.

Thankfully, we do appreciate everything that Carroll has done for Purdue. His name and number hangs in the rafters for his All-America honors, and his senior day speech with his mother in attendance is still fondly remembered by many fans. As one of our all-time greats he belongs in the top 10 of this list.