University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that the basketball court at State Farm Center would from now on be called “Lou Henson Court.”
The “Lou Henson” signature on the floor is accented by his patented orange blazer and a pair of wings as a nod to the Flyin’ Illini of 1989, his greatest Fighting Illini team.
“The University of Illinois is extremely honored to recognize one of our most iconic figures with the naming of Lou Henson Court,” said Thomas. “Lou has made an incredible impact and contribution to Fighting Illini basketball and the University. One of the most humble individuals you could ever know, Lou and Mary are recognized wherever they are at and treat everyone they meet with great respect. The current renovation project at State Farm Center would probably not be possible if not for the success led by Coach Henson here at Illinois. This is a fitting tribute to one of the all-time great coaches and people to be associated with Illinois.”
Henson was hired at Illinois on April 5, 1975. What followed was a legendary 21-year career in charge of the Orange and Blue. He amassed a 423-224 record, highlighted by 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, a total of 15 postseason bids, and eleven 20-win seasons. Illinois basketball was one of the nation’s most dominant programs during Henson’s tenure, earning a top-5 seed in the NCAA Tournament seven straight years from 1984 through 1990.
Henson’s Illini won the 1984 Big Ten Championship and advanced to the Elite Eight. His most successful season came with the Flyin’ Illini, who won a then-school record 31 games and advanced to the 1989 NCAA Final Four. Henson ranks fifth all-time among Big Ten coaches in both total wins (423) and conference wins (214). He will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 20 in Kansas City.
Lou and Mary Henson’s contribution to the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana community go much deeper than victories and tournament appearances. The Henson’s continue to have a home in Champaign and have been involved with numerous charitable organizations throughout their more than 40 years in the community. Henson started tase he nationally known Orange Krush student organization in his living room in an effort for more student involvement with the basketball program. The Orange Krush has transformed into a major supporter of community charitable organizations with more than $2 million in donations.
The Henson’s also started the highly popular Rebounders Club as the booster club for Fighting Illini men’s basketball, growing from just a few members meeting for lunch to nearly 1,000 members during its peak.
Following his retirement from Illinois, Henson returned to the sidelines at New Mexico State, leading the Aggies for seven more years and collecting a 116-81 record, highlighted by a 1999 Big West title and NCAA Tournament appearance.
In all, Henson won 779 games; ranking 16th on the all-time NCAA wins list, and 11th all-time among coaches with at least 10 years spent in Division I. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA history to record 200-plus wins at two DI schools, totaling 423 at Illinois and 289 at New Mexico State. He also stands as one of just 14 coaches to lead two different teams to the Final Four. The Henson signature also appears on the New Mexico State basketball floor.
Photo Courtesy Illinois Athletics