|Charlie Spoonhour. (AP)|
By Jeff Goodman
Bob Huggins called him his big brother.
Charlie Spoonhour died this morning at the age of 72. Huggins was about as close with Spoon since their days when they went up against one another in the Great Midwest.
"I've had better days," Huggins said. "He hadn't been well for a long time. It hadn't been easy for him of late."
Spoonhour received a lung transplant in 2010 after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Spoonhour started his head coaching career in the junior college ranks, then took over at Southwest Missouri State before going to Saint Louis (1992-99) and UNLV (2001-04).
"When we played Saint Louis before he got there, there were about 2,000 people in the stands," Huggins recalled. "One time I bet they had 20,000 or however many they could get in that place. People were running around with these huge spoons. It was like a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight atmosphere."
His final record was 373-202 in 19 seasons.
Huggins said he and Spoon talked just about every other day.
"They'll never be another Spoon," Huggins said. "His charisma, the persona he had. He had an unbelievable magnetism about him. People always wanted to be around him."
Huggins shared a few stories about Spoonhour.
- The pair were playing in the Great Midwest tournament. Huggins in his room set to play DePaul and Joey Meyer and Saint Louis was ready to face Dayton and the phone rang. "Junior, it's my turn to host. I'm one floor above you. Come up here. If you don't know what Joey's going to run by now, you're not very smart. We sat upstairs, talked and laughed." Both teams advanced. Huggins then faced regular-season champion Memphis while Spoonhour and Saint Louis had a matchup with Marquette. The phone rang. "Junior, I believe it's your turn. He came to my room and we talked, told stories and laughed." Both teams won and then were set to play each other in the championship game. "The phone rang. "Junior, I'm a man of my word. It's my turn." Huggins walked in and Spoonhour's assistants -- who were watching film of Cincinnati - cut the film off. "Spoonhour just started laughing," Huggins recalled. "He was going to fire all those assistants. He knew what we ran. He didn't care." Later that afternoon, Spoonhour missed his pre-game meal and showed up at the doorway of Cincinnati's pre-game team meal. "He ate with all of our guys," Huggins said. "He actually ate pre-game with us." Huggins and Cincinnati wound up winning the game.
- He said there was no one better at entertaining people at roasts than Spoonhour. "We did so many of them together," Huggins recalled. "So many guys get up there and aren't funny. Guys got up there with canned stuff, but his was just off the top of his head. People would always walk away saying they wished he would talk forever, He was that funny."
- Huggins said Spoonhour called him one day, after Huggins had suffered a heart attack, and asked him what it was like. "I told him to get into the doctor and have it checked out. He was in the hospital and I remember him calling me and telling me he was going to retire in about an hour."
"He had a great appreciation for the professional and the people in the profession," Huggins said. "He was an incredible guy and one hell of a ball coach."
Spoonhour is survived by his wife, Vicki, and two sons, Jay and Stephen.