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Classy Henson is worthy of Hall


Jan. 25, 2005
I want to send my best wishes to Lou Henson upon his retirement from coaching.

Lou Henson
Lou Henson looks back on a career that saw him take two programs to the Final Four (Illinois and New Mexico State).
With his 779 wins, Henson is worthy of Hall of Fame honors. He's a classy guy who has battled illness for the past two years as head coach at New Mexico State, his alma mater. At a recent press conference, Henson said, "If I can't give 100 percent like I've always demanded from my athletes, then it is time to move on."

Thanks, Lou, for all the great memories and all the great games I was able to share with you as a broadcaster. I enjoyed watching many of Henson's Illinois teams play, giving their best effort.

I feel that the 73-year-old Henson has never been given enough credit for his accomplishments on the sidelines.

A test of greatness is the ability to survive and to win consistently. Some coaches do it for a few years, but Henson has been a winner for so long now!

Henson's career record is 779-413, giving him the sixth-most wins in Division I history. Only Robert Montgomery Knight has more victories among active coaches. Henson retires just 21 wins short of becoming the fifth Division I basketball coach with 800 victories.

Henson took both Illinois (in 1989) and New Mexico State (in 1970) to the Final Four. Prior to his current stint at New Mexico State, Henson coached the Aggies before moving on to Illinois.

His Flyin' Illini squad in 1988-89 electrified fans, featuring a group of athletic guys like Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton, Marcus Liberty, Stephen Bardo, Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson. It's interesting to see this year's Illinois squad, the Flyin' Illini II, doing so well in Champaign.

In 1996, Henson retired from Illinois, but he returned to the New Mexico State sidelines in 1997. Henson wanted to help revive the Aggies program, and he led them to four 20-win seasons in the past seven years.

Thanks for all the good times, Lou. I wish you health, happiness and all the sunshine in the world during your retirement.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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