Lou Henson

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Lou Henson
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born (1932-01-10) January 10, 1932 (age 84)
Okay, Oklahoma
Playing career
1950–1954 New Mexico State
Position(s) Guard
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1962–1966 Hardin-Simmons
1966–1975 New Mexico State
1975–1996 Illinois
1997–2005 New Mexico State
Head coaching record
Overall 779–422 (.649)
Accomplishments and honors
2 NCAA Regional Championships – Final Four (1970, 1989)
1 Big Ten Conference Regular Season Championship (1984)
1 Big West Conference Regular Season Championship (1999)
1 Big West Conference Tournament Championship (1999)
Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year (1993)
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2015

Lou Henson (born January 10, 1932) is a former college basketball coach. He retired as the all-time leader in victories at the University of Illinois with 423 victories and New Mexico State with 289 victories.[1] Overall Henson won 779 games, putting him in sixteenth place on the all-time list. Henson is also one of only four NCAA coaches to have amassed at least 200 total wins at two institutions.[2] On February 17, 2015, Henson was selected as a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.[1][2] In August 2015, prior to the reopening of the newly renovated State Farm Center at the University of Illinois, the hardwood floor was dedicated and renamed Lou Henson Court in his honor.


Henson began his coaching career at Las Cruces High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Henson was head coach of the varsity team for four seasons, and won state championships in 1959, 1960, and 1961.

He started coaching in the college ranks in 1962 at Hardin-Simmons University. As a condition of taking the Hardin-Simmons job, Henson insisted that the team (and thus the school) be racially integrated, a condition to which the university agreed.[3][4] In 1966, he took over at his alma mater, New Mexico State University. In his first season at NMSU, the Aggies rebounded from a 4–22 record in the prior season to finish 15–11 and went to the NCAA Tournament. In 1970, Henson would help lead the Aggies to the Final Four for the only time in the school's history. Henson and future NBA players Jimmy Collins, Sam Lacey, and Charlie Criss lost in the tournament semifinal to eventual champion UCLA, the third time in three years the Aggies lost to UCLA in the tournament. Henson coached at New Mexico State for nine seasons, with six trips to the NCAA Tournament and four twenty-win seasons.

In 1975, Henson moved to the University of Illinois to replace Gene Bartow, after Bartow left Illinois to replace John Wooden at UCLA. He would lead the Fighting Illini to the 1989 Final Four. In 21 years at Illinois, Henson garnered 423 wins and 224 losses (.654 winning percentage), and with a record of 214 wins and 164 losses (.567) in Big Ten Conference games. The 214 wins in Big Ten games were the third highest total ever at the time of his retirement. At Illinois, Henson coached many future NBA players, including Eddie Johnson, Derek Harper, Ken Norman, Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle, Marcus Liberty, Steve Bardo, and Kiwane Garris and was known for his trademark, Lou-Do.

In 1997, Henson returned to New Mexico State as interim head coach after Neil McCarthy was abruptly fired before the start of the season. Henson wanted to donate his time, but was told that state law didn't allow him to coach for free. He finally accepted a nominal salary of $1 per month. After a successful season, he was given his old job back on a permanent basis. His 1998–99 team won the Big West regular season and tournament titles—notably, the first time in Henson's career that he had won a conference tournament. He retired for good midway through the 2004–05 season due to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. His second stint allowed him to regain his standing as New Mexico State's all-time winningest coach, passing McCarthy.

Health problems[edit]

In July 2007, Henson announced that he was again undergoing chemotherapy for the same strain of lymphoma that he had battled four years previously. He was undergoing treatment in Champaign, Illinois, where he lives in the summer.[5] In July 2015, Henson once again entered chemotherapy for "bone marrow problems."

Henson "returned to coaching" at age 82 as coach of the New Mexico House of Representatives team in a charity contest versus the New Mexico State Senate team on February 7, 2014.[6]

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Hardin–Simmons Cowboys () (1962–1966)
1962–63 Hardin–Simmons 10–16
1963–64 Hardin–Simmons 20–6
1964–65 Hardin-Simmons 17–8
1965–66 Hardin–Simmons 20–6
Hardin-Simmons: 67–36
New Mexico State Aggies (Independent) (1966–1970)
1966–67 New Mexico State 15–11
1967–68 New Mexico State 23–6 NCAA Far West Regional
1968–69 New Mexico State 24–5 NCAA Far West Regional
1969–70 New Mexico State 27–3 NCAA Final Four
New Mexico State Aggies (Missouri Valley Conference) (1970–1975)
1970–71 New Mexico State 19–8 0–0 NCAA First Round
1971–72 New Mexico State 19–6 0–0
1972–73 New Mexico State 12–14 6–7 T–4th
1973–74 New Mexico State 14–11 7–6 T–3rd NCAA 1st Round
1974–75 New Mexico State 20–7 11–3 2nd NCAA 1st Round
New Mexico State: 173–71 24–16

NMSU ineligible for conference championship

Illinois Fighting Illini (Big Ten Conference) (1975–1996)
1975–76 Illinois 14–13 7–11 7th (T)
1976–77 Illinois 16–14 8–10 6th
1977–78 Illinois 13–14 7–11 7th
1978–79 Illinois 19–11 7–11 7th
1979–80 Illinois 22–13 8–10 6th (T) NIT 3rd Place
1980–81 Illinois 21–8 12–6 3rd NCAA 2nd Round
1981–82 Illinois 18–11 10–8 6th NIT 2nd Round
1982–83 Illinois 21–11 11–7 2nd (T) NCAA 1st Round
1983–84 Illinois 26–5 15–3 1st (T) NCAA Elite Eight
1984–85 Illinois 26–9 12–6 2nd NCAA Sweet 16
1985–86 Illinois 22–10 11–7 4th (T) NCAA 2nd Round
1986–87 Illinois 23–8 13–5 4th NCAA 1st Round
1987–88 Illinois 23–10 12–6 3rd (T) NCAA 2nd Round
1988–89 Illinois 31–5 14–4 2nd NCAA Final Four
1989–90 Illinois 21–8 11–7 4th (T) NCAA 1st Round
1990–91 Illinois 21–10 11–7 3rd (T)
1991–92 Illinois 13–15 7–11 8th
1992–93 Illinois 19–13 11–7 3rd (T) NCAA 2nd Round
1993–94 Illinois 17–11 10–8 4th (T) NCAA 1st Round
1994–95 Illinois 19–12 10–8 5th (T) NCAA 1st Round
1995–96 Illinois 18–13 7–11 9th NIT 1st Round
Illinois: 423–224 214–164
New Mexico State Aggies (Big West Conference) (1997–2000)
1997–98 New Mexico State 18–12 8–8* 7th (T)
1998–99 New Mexico State 23–10 12–4 1st NCAA 1st Round
1999–00 New Mexico State 22–10 11–5 7th NIT 1st Round
New Mexico State Aggies (Sun Belt Conference) (2000–2005)
2000–01 New Mexico State 14–14 10–6 2nd West (T)
2001–02 New Mexico State 20–12 11–4 1st West (T)
2002–03 New Mexico State 20–9 9–6 2nd West
2003–04 New Mexico State 13–14 6–9 4th West (T)
2004–05 New Mexico State 5–13 1–4 6th West
New Mexico State: 135–86 66–46

* Record vacated due to NCAA infractions.
Henson replaced by Tony Stubblefield 1/22/05.

Total: 779–412

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Henson headed to College Basketball Hall of Fame". Nex Mexico State DIA. 2015-02-17. Retrieved 2015-02-17. 
  2. ^ a b "Coach Lou Henson Selected to National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame". University of Illinois DIA. 2015-02-17. Retrieved 2015-02-17. 
  3. ^ Tate, Loren (2010-02-17). "Tate: Henson helped break basketball color barrier". The News-Gazette (Champaign, Ill.). Retrieved 2016-02-17. 
  4. ^ Supinie, John (2012-01-10). "Supinie: What does Lou have to do to get into the Hall?". Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.). Retrieved 2016-02-17. 
  5. ^ "Ex-NMSU, Illinois coach Henson back in chemotherapy". CBS Sportsline. Associated Press. 25 July 2007. 
  6. ^ "Lou Henson to coach House team in charity hoops game". Santa Fe New Mexican. February 3, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]