Spoonhour says his youth balanced by knowledge

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Jay Spoonhour is the most inexperienced of the three finalists for Southeast Missouri State's head men's basketball coaching position.

Yet he firmly believes he is ready for the job.

"I think youth is a great benefit, especially if you've got knowledge," said the 35-year-old Spoonhour. "I feel like I've got knowledge."

Spoonhour was the second finalist brought to campus for a series of interviews on Friday, following Tennessee assistant and former Murray State head coach Scott Edgar's visit on Thursday. Former Mississippi head coach Rod Barnes will be in town Monday.

Spoonhour met with various Southeast administrators much of the day, talked with current players and then spoke at a public forum in the Show Me Center meeting rooms, during which he displayed plenty of confidence and charisma.

Later, he met with the media.

Asked what makes him the best candidate for the job, Spoonhour said, "It's a combination of things, but I think I'll be able to generate a lot of interest. The name recognition doesn't hurt, whether you're talking about recruiting, fundraising or overall interest in the program.

"And I think I'm a good coach. I've won 92 percent of my games, and I've never felt outcoached no matter who I've gone against."

Spoonhour, the son of former longtime coach Charlie Spoonhour -- who made his biggest marks at St. Louis University and Southwest Missouri State -- has actually won 88 percent of his games as a head coach, with a 42-6 record in a little more than a year.

Spoonhour was an assistant the last two seasons at Missouri, after going 6-5 as the interim head coach at UNLV in 2004 when he took over for his father and guided the Rebels into the NIT.

Spoonhour's other head coaching gig came in the 2000-01 season, when he led Wabash Valley (Ill.) Community College to a 36-1 record and the national junior college championship. That earned him NJCAA coach of the year.

Spoonhour also assisted his father at UNLV for three seasons, and was on his dad's staff at St. Louis University for three years.

"I talk to my dad every day," Spoonhour said. "We should all be so lucky to have a role model like he is to me. Everything I know is from him."

Added Spoonhour, who prefers an up-tempo style to his dad's more patient offensive approach: "But that doesn't mean I coach like him. My style is different. He held the ball, but that was a different time.

"We averaged 94 points a game and allowed 67 points a game at Wabash Valley. Transition offense. I believe in easy baskets and I believe in pressure defense. We're going to play very fast. I want people to say, 'how are we going to catch up with SEMO.'"

Spoonhour, a Pittsburg (Kan.) State graduate who told stories of playing at the Show Me Center against Southeast in 1990 when both programs were in the Division II MIAA, cited his ties to the state as a major advantage.

"I've lived in five different towns in Missouri. My grandmother lives in Bloomfield. I'm a Missouri guy," said Spoonhour, who was accompanied to Cape Girardeau by his wife, Nicole, and their two small children, 3-year-old daughter Gracie and 4-month-old son Charlie. "There is a whole area of this state that doesn't think about SEMO, and they should.

"I'm a St. Louis guy. With me, you'll have a bigger presence in St. Louis and the state of Missouri. I think that's important. I've been around coaches my entire life. There's not a guy in the state of Missouri who's a basketball coach, maybe a few, who don't know who I am or know the name."

Continued Spoonhour: "You don't have to go very far to find players. My staff will recruit the state of Missouri. There are definitely good enough players in the state of Missouri, St. Louis, the bootheel, Memphis, the junior colleges around here. We just have to get them.

"SIU's roster, they've got kids from Missouri. You look at the Missouri Valley Conference rosters, they all have kids from Missouri. Everybody has come into our state and gotten players here. Not to say you're only going to get players here, but it's a good place to start. We've got to start getting a bigger presence in St. Louis, for kids to say it's cool to go to SEMO."

Citing fan support and the community, Spoonhour said he is confident he would win -- and win big -- with the Redhawks.

"I think it's a great place. I think it's a place you can expect to be in the NCAA tournament every year," he said. "I know the fans here want a winner. I think I can give them that."

Hopefully as soon as next season.

"There's a good group of players in that locker room right now. They want to win," Spoonhour said. "How long it will take, I don't know. There are still a few guys to get, but there's no reason it can't happen as soon as next year."

Spoonhour cited Southeast as a good fit for his first Division I head coaching experience.

"It's never good to go to a place where you don't know the landscape. I know the landscape," he said. "I've known about this job and how good it is since I was a little kid. I want this job so bad."

Barnes, the third finalist, will participate in a public forum at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the Show Me Center meeting rooms.

Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman said the university hopes to name a replacement for Gary Garner next week. Garner's contract was not renewed following a 7-20 season. He had coached Southeast the past nine years.

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