Lou Henson

Lou Henson (1932-2020)

Teams coached: Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, New Mexico State Aggies, Illinois Fighting Illini
Hardin-Simmons record: 67-36 (.650)
New Mexico State record: 289-152 (.655) **
Illinois record: 423-224 (.654)
Overall record: 779-412 (.654) **

Career Accomplishments:


Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1997-2005 New Mexico State
1975-1996 Illinois
1966-1975 New Mexico State
1962-1966 Hardin-Simmons

Lou Henson Facts

  • Louis Ray Henson
  • Born January 10, 1932
  • Died July 25, 2020
  • Hometown: Okay, Oklahoma
  • Alma Mater: New Mexico A&M University (BA, 1954 & MA)
  • Played guard for four seasons at New Mexico State (then A&M) for head coaches George McCarty and Presley Askew
  • Started his coaching career at Las Cruces HS (NM), where he won three state championships in four seasons as head coach
  • Joined the college ranks in 1962, spending four years as the head coach at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, TX
    • Racially integrated the program upon taking the position
  • Returned to his alma mater New Mexico State in 1966, leading the Aggies program for the next nine seasons
    • Went to the NCAA Tournament five times, including a trip to the 1970 Final Four
  • Left for Illinois in 1975, where he would coach the Illini for the 21 seasons
    • Reached the postseason fifteen times (12 NCAA, 3 NIT) and won 423 games during his tenure
    • Left (and remains) the all-time winningest head coach in Illinois history
    • Floor at Illinois’ State Farm Center renamed “Lou Henson Court” in 2015 in his honor
  • Returned to NMSU in 1997 as interim head coach, accepting a $1/month salary
    • Given the job permanently after a successful first season, though that 1997-98 season was later vacated due to an academic fraud committed by previous head coach Neil McCarthy
    • Reached the NCAA Tournament in year two and the NIT in year three, but failed to reach the postseason after that
    • All-time winningest head coach at New Mexico State with 289 victories
  • Retired midway through the 2004-05 season following a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; underwent chemotherapy in both 2007 and 2015
    • Since 2010, CollegeInsider has given out the Lou Henson Award to the nation’s top mid-major player
    • Henson passed away in July 2020 at his home in Champaign at the age of 88
  • Along with his late wife, Bobbi, has five children

Lou Henson Coaching Tree


** Listed accomplishments for this coach do not include wins or appearances later vacated by the NCAA