Former NBA head coach George Karl had the opportunity to coach numerous players in his career, but he remembers one specific guy he considered the hardest to coach. His name is Joe Barry Carroll, and for the majority of NBA fans, he is an unfamiliar player, but for Karl, he was a straight-up enigma and a unique personality that had his way of doing things.
George Karl established himself as one of the most tenured coaches in NBA history and is currently 6th for most wins with 1210 in total. His coaching career spanned from the mid-80s until 2016, when he had his last coaching gig with the Sacramento Kings. Karl had the opportunity to be a part of some outstanding and historic NBA teams for most of his coaching career, even though he never won a championship as the head coach.
You know for a fact Karl has seen it all when it comes to basketball and worked with a lot of talented individuals that made his coaching job so much easier. On the other hand, he coached players who had their own way of doing things that would drive Karl mad because he could not get through them at all.
In his book "Furious George", he details a few moments with Joe Carroll, who was the type of player that would read Wall Street Journal or a book before practice or games.
“I once had a player who calmly turned the pages of the Wall Street Journal in our pregame locker room. Checking his portfolio, I suppose, while I’m pacing like an expectant father. Before practice, he’d read a book on the bench until the instant we were scheduled to begin.”
The majority of fans don't recognize the name Joe Carroll, but he was the first pick of the 1980 draft and a promising center back in the day. Despite having a lot of talent and the tools to be a great big man in the NBA, Carroll simply cared more about other things outside of basketball. That made Karl especially mad because he was only focused on basketball and trying to turn his team into a contender.
“That was Joe Barry Carroll, a seven-footer who was the first pick in the 1980 NBA draft. The emotionless JB had a high basketball IQ and was very advanced offensively; he had a big game that should have been even bigger. He made his only All-Star team when I coached him at Golden State. Not that I take any credit for that; maybe I deserve some blame that he made only one. But while I didn’t bring out the fire in him, he certainly brought it out in me. His intellectual, above-it-all approach mocked everything I believe in.
Karl coached Carroll on the Golden State Warriors and recalls a specific series against the Lakers when he completely lost his mind at Carroll. He didn't show any desire to compete against Kareem or the Lakers, and when Karl confronted him about it, he simply said there is no way the Warriors can beat the Lakers in the playoffs.
"I remember a playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Adrenaline squirts like crazy into (almost) everyone’s bloodstream during the playoffs, but my stoic, businesslike center played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar without any special urgency, or any that I could see. We lost a close game to go down 0-3, and JB made some mistakes at the end. But he was all right with it.
“Don’t worry, Coach,” he said afterward. “Just relax. We can’t beat the Lakers.” A defeatist thought if I ever heard one”
It's always great to hear stories like this one, especially about players that are not that familiar to the broader audience. Karl has seen it all throughout his coaching career, but he never dealt with anyone like Carroll, who, despite being an intelligent guy, had other priorities and interests in his life aside from basketball. After his career was over in 1991, Carroll dedicated his life to becoming an investment advisor, author, and painter. He did numerous philanthropy work and received several awards as an outstanding citizen and a member of society.