June 23, 1939—February 1, 2012
“Spoon” was one of a kind.
There are those who believe Charlie Spoonhour remembered every person he ever met, every conversation he ever had and every basketball game he ever saw. He loved basketball, he loved people, he loved life and was passionate about the St. Louis Cardinals.
Spoon had a world class sense of humor. His passing in 2012 came way too soon and left a large teardrop on the world’s smile.
On December 11, 2019, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly honored Spoonhour as a Missouri Sports Legend, unveiling a bronze bust that eventually will be featured on the Legends Walkway in Springfield – a city that helped define his basketball coaching career.
When Spoon joined the then-Southwest Missouri State Bears basketball staff of Bill Thomas and Jay Kinser in 1968 as a graduate assistant, it was the first time the Bears had a three-man coaching staff. Thomas and Kinser shared an office on the upper concourse of McDonald Arena.
There wasn’t space to put a third desk into the office, so a desk was squeezed into a tiny and dark closet which housed the old gym’s heating system. Charlie was literally in the fan room of McDonald Arena and, for years, cracked jokes about his goings and comings from his little cubicle. The fan room took on a life of its own.
In truth, Spoonhour spent far more time on the road recruiting and was instrumental in helping the Bears reach the NCAA Division II national title game in 1969 while adding the building blocks of the team that would take SMS/Missouri State back to the national title game in 1974 after back-to-back MIAA championships.
Spoonhour left Springfield in 1972 for two years as head coach at Moberly Area Junior College. From there he spent a season as an assistant at the University of Oklahoma, six years as head coach at Southeastern Iowa Community College, and two as a University of Nebraska assistant.
In 1983, Spoonhour became the Bears’ head coach in what was Missouri State’s second season in NCAA Division I. He spent nine years as head coach at MSU, seven seasons at Saint Louis University and three campaigns at Nevada-Las Vegas. Overall, he guided 12 teams to NCAA Division I postseasons – seven at MSU, three at SLU and two at UNLV.
The MSU years were a match made in heaven for Spoon and the basketball fans of the Ozarks. A native of Rogers, Ark., who cut his coaching teeth while also driving a school bus in tiny Rocky Comfort, Mo., he also coached at Bloomfield and Salem high schools.
When Spoonhour got to Springfield, he was home. And he was welcomed with open arms. Bears’ attendance soared. Hammons Student Center became known as “Spoon’s Temple of Doom.” His sparkling one-liners were the talk of the town, and he was constantly in demand to speak at banquets and coaching clinics.
Spoon’s third Bears team made MSU’s first Division I postseason appearance and knocked off Pittsburgh and Marquette to reach the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament. In 1987, the Bears reached the NCAA for the first time and dispatched Clemson in the first round before losing to Kansas.
Four more NCAA visits followed over the next five seasons as the Bears battled but fell to UNLV in 1988, Seton Hall in 1989, North Carolina in 1990 and Michigan State in 1992. The Bears joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1990 and, in 1992, captured the program’s only MVC Tournament title.
With another NIT visit in 1991, Spoon finished his time guiding the Bears with seven straight postseason appearances and a 197-81 record.
At Saint Louis from 1992 to 1999, Spoonhour took the Billikens to a 122-90 record and guided SLU to NCAA tournament appearances in 1994, 1995 and 1998 in what were his three 20-win seasons with the Bills.
He had two 22-11 seasons in his full years at Nevada-Las Vegas, getting the Runnin’ Rebels to the NIT each year, and going 54-31 at UNLV. After retiring from coaching, he spent several seasons lending his wit and insight to college basketball telecasts.
Spoonhour’s 19-season record as a college head coach was 373-202. With his high school and juco years, he logged a 750-311 mark for 42 seasons as a head coach.
It was at Nebraska that Spoon met Vicki Korner, and they were married in Springfield in 1987. Spoonhour had two sons from a previous marriage. Jay is now head basketball coach at Eastern Illinois University and Stephen owns Kansas City-based Spoonball Sports.