CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Charlie Spoonhour, the popular, homespun coach who took Saint Louis University 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 University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 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 MSU, then known as Southwest Missouri State University, 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 University on Wednesday night.
"The entire Missouri State University family is deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Spoonhour," Athletics 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 SLU 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 University.
After compiling a 122-90 record in seven seasons at SLU, he retired briefly then returned to coaching at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,, going 54-31 in three seasons. He retired following the 2003-04 season.
SLU 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 a black turtleneck sweater to offset his close-cropped white hair.
SLU's first-round victory over the University of Minnesota in 1995 was the school's first in 43 years. The Billikens lost in the second round to a Wake Forest University team led by future NBA star Tim Duncan.
Now headed by Rick Majerus, SLU was ranked for one week earlier this season, its first top 25 appearance since Spoonhour's glory days in 1994.