CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Charlie Spoonhour, the popular, homespun coach who took Saint Louis to three NCAA tournaments behind a prolific offense, has died after battling a lung disease. He was 72.
Spoonhour, who also coached at Missouri State and UNLV, died Wednesday, said Chuck Harker, the funeral director at Walker's Funeral Home in Chapel Hill. Spoonhour was diagnosed in 2010 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which required a transplant at Duke University Medical Center in nearby Durham, N.C.
In 19 seasons as a Division I head coach, Spoonhour was 373-202.
He built his reputation at Missouri State, then known as Southwest Missouri State, where he was 197-81 with five NCAA tournament appearances from 1983-92. The school planned a moment of silence during a pre-game tribute to Spoonhour before its game against Wichita State on Wednesday night.
"The entire Missouri State University family is deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Spoonhour," athletic director Kyle Moats said. "His legacy is one of class, distinction and achievement, and he will be dearly missed by the many lives he touched in his many endeavors."
Spoonhour was a popular coach and his NCAA appearances with Saint Louis in the 1990s came with teams who swamped opponents with a barrage of 3-pointers. This was just the latest version of "Spoonball," which was a more patient, possession-oriented offense in Spoonhour's days at Southwest Missouri State.
After compiling a 122-90 record in seven seasons at Saint Louis, he retired briefly then returned to coaching at UNLV, going 54-31 in three seasons. He retired following the 2003-04 season.
Saint Louis ended a 20-year NCAA tournament drought under Spoonhour, who produced consecutive 23-win seasons and back-to-back NCAA berths in 1993-94 and 1994-95. Those teams relied heavily on sharpshooters Erwin Claggett, Scott Highmark and H Waldman, and played to sellout crowds of 21,000 while Spoonhour prowled the sidelines clad in black turtleneck sweater to offset his close-cropped white hair.
Saint Louis' first-round victory over Minnesota in 1995 was the school's first in 43 years. The Billikens lost in the second round to a Wake Forest team led by future NBA star Tim Duncan.
Now headed by Rick Majerus, Saint Louis was ranked for one week earlier this season, its first Top 25 appearance since Spoonhour's glory days in1994.