Former Missouri State, Saint Louis and UNLV coach Charlie Spoonhour died Wednesday morning in North Carolina. He was 72.
Next to Norm Stewart, no major college basketball coach probably had a greater influence in Missouri than Spoonhour.
At Missouri State _ then Southwest Missouri State _ and Saint Louis University, Spoonhour created winners with a defensive brand called "Spoonball."
Spoonhour nurtured the Bears through their early years of its Division I membership and they never had a losing record in his nine seasons as coach from 1983-92. There were five NCAA Tournament teams and players such as Winston Garland and Kelby Stuckey helped the program win four league championships.
The highlight came in 1987, when Southwest rolled to a 28-6 record and upset Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Only Danny Manning's 42 points prevented Kansas from becoming the Bears' second upset victim.
Spoonhour's jump to Saint Louis stunned Springfield in 1992. As a Bears fan put it at the time, "He's an Ozarker coaching in the Ozarks." Indeed, Spoonhour, a native of Mulberry, Kan., attended the University of the Ozarks.
But Spoonhour also loved challenges _ it's why he interviewed for the Kansas job that went to Roy Williams in 1988 _ and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Billikens games became a happening, and after a losing record in his first season, Spoonhour had Saint Louis in the NCAA tournament three of the next five years.
Spoonhour retired after the 1999 season, but returned to the game in 2001, taking over UNLV. It was an odd marriage, the old country coach at glitzy Vegas. Spoonhour guided the Rebels to two NIT appearances and resigned before the end of his third season, turning over the team to his son Jay.
Spoonhour finished with a 373-202 career Division I coaching record. Missouri State and Saint Louis have had one NCAA Tournament season each after Spoonhour left.
"My first year as A.D., we hired Coach Spoonhour, and in my mind I knew he was going to be the most ideal candidate we could have," said Bill Rowe, former Missouri State athletic director. "He was the best thing that could have happened to our program."
Spoonhour, who is survived by his wife, Vicki, and two sons, Jay and Stephen, received a lung transplant in 2010 after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
According to a news release from Missouri State, Jay Spoonhour said his father died peacefully Wednesday morning surrounded by his family and was able to spend his final moments with them at the family's condo near Raleigh-Durham, N.C. He had recently returned home from the hospital.
Arrangements are pending. A moment of silence was to be observed at Missouri State men's basketball game against Wichita State on Wednesday night.
(c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services