Mike Barrett, the West Virginia Tech basketball star who played on the U.S. gold medal team in the 1968 Olympics, died Monday night of a long illness in Nashville, Tenn., Tech officials confirmed.
He was 67.
Born in Montgomery and raised in Richwood, Barrett led coach Neal Baisi's Golden Bears to the 1963 West Virginia Conference tournament championship at the old Civic Center, and was named most valuable player. He then led the Bears to regular-season titles in 1964 and 1965.
He earned his Olympic gold alongside Spencer Haywood, Charles Scott and Jo Jo White in the Mexico City games. Afterward, he made the All-Rookie team in the American Basketball Association in 1969-70, playing two full seasons in that league and part of a third.
He also was a successful businessman in the Nashville area, and often made his way back to Montgomery and Richwood. As recently as two seasons ago, he played in the alumni game at Tech, where his No. 10 is retired.
By standards then and now, he was skinny. The basketball stats archive website basketball-reference.com lists him at 6-foot-2, 155 pounds, and one longtime friend doesn't dispute it.
But Pete Kelley never disputed Barrett's ability, either.
"When he walked into the gym for the first time, we asked ourselves if this kid can play," said Kelley, a retired Tech official and Barrett's teammate. "We found out really quickly he could. He was an outstanding player.
"His exploits on the court were just magical. He has a special relationship with the fans; they loved him."
Barrett played from 1961-65, averaging just over 22 points. He led the league in his senior season with a 27.7 average, as he was named to the All-WVC team for the third time. He also was named to the Little All-America team.
From Tech, he entered the Navy, which had a number of "sub" teams that played around the country and the world. He played and coached teams to a 68-33 record and was named to the All-Navy team twice. He was the tournament MVP when he led the Armed Forces All-Stars to a national AAU title in 1968.
Service players of the time were invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, which Barrett did. He was one of three armed forces players to make it, joining John Clawson and Michael Silliman.