CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The winningest coach in Illini basketball history passed away over the weekend.
Lou Henson died at the age of 88 Saturday and was laid to rest Wednesday morning at a private burial.
“Our Orange and Blue hearts are heavy,” said Josh Whitman, Illinois Director of Athletics. “We have lost an Illini icon. We have lost a role model, a friend, and a leader. We have lost our coach. Coach Henson may be gone, but the memories he provided us, and the legacy he created, will last forever. He was responsible for almost 800 wins in the record book and countless Fighting Illini moments frozen in time, but Coach Henson’s true measure will be felt in the lives he touched – the lives of his former players, people on this campus, and friends in our broader community. We are all better for whatever time we were privileged to spend with Coach Lou, whether it was five minutes or 50 years. He made everyone feel like a friend. I so enjoyed my time with Coach these last five years, and I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Lisa, Lori, Leigh Anne, and the entire Henson family. Their family will always be part of ours.”
“It is a sad day for the Illinois Basketball family and Illini Nation as we mourn the passing of Lou Henson, the greatest coach in our program’s proud history,” said Illinois Basketball Coach Brad Underwood. “His achievements are legendary, but what is immeasurable are the countless lives he impacted during his 21 years in Champaign and 41 years in coaching. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary and their family, and the hundreds of players who were fortunate enough to be led by such a tremendous man and coach. Rest in peace to the best to ever wear the orange jacket; we’ll miss you Coach.”
In his 20-plus years at Illinois, Henson led the program to 423 victories, 12 NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to the Final Four in 1989 with the Flyin’ Illini.
The University permanently etched his legacy into the floor at their newly renovated basketball arena in 2015, naming the State Farm Center hardwood “Lou Henson Court.”
Between his time in Champaign and two stints at New Mexico State, the Hall of Fame coach compiled 779 career wins, which ranks 16th all-time in Division I men’s basketball history.