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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Charlie Spoonhour’s wise-cracking humor was one of a kind

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Charlie Spoonhour (AP)

In addition to building Southwest Missouri State and Saint Louis into mid-major powers during the late 1980s and 90s, Charlie Spoonhour was best known in college basketball circles for two things.

Nobody looked better in a mock turtleneck than Spoonhour. And nobody had a more charming sense of humor.

Spoonhour used his wise-cracking homespun humor to his advantage throughout his career, whether it was during news conferences with the media, home visits with recruits or banquets with boosters. As a result, it seems fitting to remember some of the laughs he provided on the day that he died at age 72 less than two years after receiving a lung transplant after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

In 19 years as a Division I head coach, Spoonhour led Southwest Missouri State and Saint Louis to eight NCAA tournament appearances and also earned a pair of NIT bids while coaching at UNLV. Here's a collection of some of his most memorable quips and one-liners from throughout his coaching career:

• "I could do a chin-up on his arm, and it wouldn't affect his shooting." — Spoonhour on chiseled Cincinnati forward Danny Fortson, one of the nation's best interior scorers and rebounders at the time.  (Sports Illustrated, 1996)

• "The coach gave me a scholarship sight-unseen and as soon as he saw me, he cut me." — Spoonhour on his brief tenure as a scholarship baseball player at the University of Arkansas. (The Log Cabin Democrat, 2009)

• "No, I guess you must be right, Ron. You ought to know what a foul is, you sure as hell committed enough of them." — Spoonhour to referee Ron Pexa regarding a call he disagreed with during a game. Spoonhour coached at Moberly Junior College when Pexa played at Missouri and was familiar with his game. (East Iowa Herald, 2008)

• "We're excited about the coming season — but, then, guys on death row are excited too." — Spoonhour on whether Saint Louis could sustain its success after star guard Larry Hughes left for the NBA. (Sports Illustrated, 1998)

• "I thought my team had done it." Spoonhour on getting locked in the locker room at halftime of his Saint Louis team's NCAA tournament victory over UMass. (Chicago Tribune, 1998)

• "We used to be able to sneak up on people. But I think we've lost our sneaking license." — Spoonhour on how winning back-to-back league titles made his Southwest Missouri State team an opponent teams no longer overlooked. (Sports Illustrated, 1992)

• "It takes two visits before somebody won't laugh at our name." — Spoonhour on the challenges of recruiting to Southwest Missouri State. He lobbied during his tenure to have the school's name changed to Missouri State, which finally happened in 2004 long after Spoonhour left. (Sports Illustrated, 1986)

"To do the things you really need to do, it finally got to be work. And I always said if it got to be a real job, I'd quit." — Spoonhour on why he was stepping down as Saint Louis coach in 1999. He later returned to coaching at UNLV two years later. (The Associated Press, 1999)

• "All our guys are forwards. If you say a 6-5 guy is a center, that looks bad." — Spoonhour on his 1994-95 Saint Louis team's undersized frontcourt. The Billikens went 23-8 that season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament despite not starting a player taller than 6-foot-6.  (Minnesota Star-Tribune, 1995)

• "They've been on the road longer than Custer." — Spoonhour on upcoming opponent Grambling's arduous non-conference schedule that resulted in a 2-11 start. (Sports Illustrated, 1988)

• "I've got these huge bags under my eyes; I look older than I am, if that's possible. When the season is over and I can get away from basketball, I don't get blond-headed or anything, but I look a little bit younger. Right now, I look like I've been rode hard and put away wet." — a 54-year-old Spoonhour on the grind of the 1994-95 season. (Minnesota Star-Tribune, 1995)

• "First day of school and I'm living in a 8 x 28 pink trailer by the home-ec cottage. That was part of the deal. All of a sudden I hear this banging on the door. I stagger out of bed, open the door and it's pitch black outside. The school supervisor is standing there. I said, 'What time is it?' He says, 'About 6 a.m.' I'm thinking, 'Six a.m.? I don't even throw up till noon.' So I ask him, 'What time does school start?' And he says, 'We start at 8:20, but you're driving the bus.'" — Spoonhour reminiscing about the glamour of his first coaching job at Rocky Comfort High in Missouri. (Los Angeles Times, 1994)

• "So far, I've told everyone it's on TV. I have friends I didn't know I have, and I have a lot of friends who are really cheap." — Spoonhour on the ticket requests he received before taking his UNLV team to play at Missouri in 2004.  (Las Vegas Sun, 2004)

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