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Former Billikens Basketball Coach Charlie Spoonhour Dies at 72

Willie Springer
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Coach Charlie Spoonhour of the St. Louis Billikens yells during a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. St. Louis won the game, 64-61.

Coach Charlie Spoonhour of the St. Louis Billikens yells during a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. St. Louis won the game, 64-61.

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – Coach Charlie Spoonhour, the man who made ‘Spoonball’ a trend at Saint Louis University, has passed away at the age of 72. He died with family by his side on Wednesday morning in Chapel Hill, NC.

A college basketball head coach for 19 seasons with Missouri State, SLU, and the University of Las Vegas, Spoonhour had a 373-202 overall record with eight NCAA Tournament appearances. Spoonhour arrived to St. Louis in 1992 taking the Billikens to the annual ‘March Madness’ tournament three times over seven seasons, including first round wins in 1995 and 1998.

His best season leading the Billikens is debatable, yet his biggest player during his time in St. Louis was native Larry Hughes. Spoonhour signed Hughes from Christian Brothers Academy in 1997, but lost his star player after one season to the NBA.

He finished his coaching career at UNLV from 2001-04 with a 57-31 record.

Former student Scott Highmark played for Spoonhour from 1992 to 1995. He says Spoonhour’s leadership was more like a democracy than a dictatorship; Spoonhour was open to comments and suggestions from players but was still the leader.

“He really put that love of the game, that child-like love that you have when you first pick up a basketball back in the game for me.” Highmark said.

Former SLU Athletic Director Doug Wollard said Spoonhour was loved by everyone who knew him.

“That’s something that Charlie was certainly known for, is he connected so well with the community,  connected so well with every facet of St. Louis that he was such a popular guy,” Wollard said.

Spoonhour had been in and out of the hospital, mainly Duke University Medical Center for the past couple of years after receiving a lung transplant in 2010. He had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

A native of Mulberry, KS. born on June 23, 1939, Spoonhour received a secondary education degree at University of the Ozarks. He spent almost the next decade as a high school coach, then split time over the next fourteen seasons between coaching positions, including a four-year stretch from 1969-73 as an assistant coach for then-Division II Southwest Missouri State.

He was also an assistant at Nebraska under coach Moe Iba before taking over Missouri State after the program was elevated to Division I status in 1983.

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