Henson to be honored when NMSU plays at Illinois
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The New Mexico State men’s basketball team is set to battle Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 16, at the United Center in Chicago. The game will honor coaching icon Lou Henson, the all-time winningest coach of both the Aggie and Fighting Illini programs.
A 1955 graduate of New Mexico State, Henson coached 16 years between two stints at his alma mater, compiling a 289-152 mark. He led New Mexico State to its lone Final Four appearance in 1970, and to a total of seven NCAA Tournaments and eight 20-win seasons overall.
“We are privileged to be a part of recognizing and honoring Coach Lou Henson,” Aggie head coach Chris Jans said. “Coach Henson had an incredible career and is living a remarkable life. Coach [Henson] represented two fine institutions with unparalleled success and it will be a privilege to compete versus the University of Illinois as we honor Coach Henson.”
Henson totaled a 423-224 record in 21 seasons with the Orange and Blue, highlighted by 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, a total of 15 postseason bids, and eleven 20-win seasons. 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.
Over his entire 41-year career, Henson won 779 games; ranking 16th on the all-time NCAA wins list. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA history to record 200-plus wins at two DI schools. He also stands as one of just 14 coaches to lead two different teams to the Final Four.
“I am extremely pleased that New Mexico State University and the University of Illinois were able to work out a game to honor Lou Henson,” NM State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said. “We know he is beloved in Las Cruces as well as Champaign and this will be a tremendous event for both Institutions. Having the game in Chicago at the United Center is the cherry on top. We have a large contingent of alumni in Chicago and some of our greatest players have come from the Windy City. Not only is this a great game for us from a competitive and RPI standpoint, it will be a wonderful tribute for both Lou and Mary Henson.”
Henson was inducted into the US Bank/NM State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1978 as well as the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. His name adorns the courts in both Las Cruces and Champaign.
New Mexico State and Illinois are under the direction of first-year head coaches. Chris Jans took over an Aggie team that participated in the NCAA Tournament after winning the WAC Tournament and compiling a 28-6 record. Brad Underwood is now at the helm of an Illini squad that went 20-15 last season, advancing to the NIT Quarterfinal.
The public ticket on-sale date will be announced later this fall by the Illinois Athletic Department.