LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Ailing New Mexico State coach Lou Henson
retired Saturday, 21 wins shy of becoming only the fifth Division I
basketball coach with 800 victories.
The story was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz.
The 73-year-old Henson, in a wheelchair and frail, hasn't
coached this season. He had planned to return Jan. 8 but was
hospitalized Jan. 6 with pneumonia.
The team is 4-13 this season under interim coach Tony
Stubblefield. Henson retires with a career record of 779-413, the
sixth winningest in Division I history. Among active coaches, only
Bob Knight has more victories.
Stubblefield will meet with NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston on Saturday afternoon as well as the board of regents to discuss his future.
Stubblefield, 34, will be a candidate for the permanent position. But there will be plenty of interest, notably from Arizona State assistant coach Tony Benford, Oklahoma State assistant coach James Dickey and former SMU coach Mike Dement.
"I have always been a very demanding coach. I expect my players
to give 100 percent or they come out of the game," Henson said.
"I can expect no less of myself. So because I am physically unable
to give my all, I am taking myself out of the game."
A source told Katz that Henson may still coach one or two games near the end of the season as a "last hurrah," if his health permits.
Henson smiled as he greeted crowds at Fulton Athletics Center.
Accompanied by wife Mary, Henson received several standing ovations
from players, school officials, longtime friends and at least two
former school presidents.
Henson, whose right leg remains paralyzed as a result of his
recent viral encephalitis, gingerly pulled himself from the
wheelchair and stood at the podium. He called the decision to
retire "an easy one" because of his health.
"I'm happy that he's finally letting go of such a huge
responsibility," Mary Henson said.
Henson coached last season despite being diagnosed with
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. The cancer is now in
remission, but in September he was hospitalized with viral
University president Michael Martin said the school had hoped
Henson could coach the Aggies long enough to reach 800 victories.
"It would have been a great marketing tool, but we're not here
just to win basketball games," Martin said. "Coach Henson coached
here and at Illinois with the highest level of integrity. The
quality is so high that in my mind he has 8,000 wins."
Henson retired at Illinois in 1996, but he returned to coaching
a year later at New Mexico State, his alma mater. In the seven
seasons since, the Aggies have had four 20-win seasons.
"He has every reason to have a big ego and never practices
it," Martin said.
Senior writer Andy Katz contributed to this report.