Lou Henson dies at 88

#52
Tennessee
The Lou Henson teams are one of my favorite memories from living in C-U.

The two that top the list would be

The Eddie Johnson shot to defeat MSU and Magic Johnson to make the Illini the Number One team in the country.

The Nick Anderson buzzer beater to defeat Indiana at Indiana.

Lou - legend.
 
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#53
Not Iowa
Orange, Blue and Lou.
God bless you and thank you for showing the people from Indiana how a coach should act.
One of my best memories is him and Bobby going at it after an Indiana game where he called him “a classic bully.” The only guy with guts to say it. And without swearing. #TotalClass
 
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#54
Rest In Peace Coach. Thank you for everything you’ve done for Illini Basketball. Your contributions will never be forgotten, your impact unmatched. God Bless.
 
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#57
OSKEE WOW WOW
Rochester, IL
Don't save a seat for Bobby, Lou. He's going the other direction.
 
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#58
Tyngsborough, MA
The thought of Bobby Knight roasting like a marshmallow is appealing, but Lou is such a class act he will probably put in a good word.
 
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#59
Sorry to hear. Great memories from Levi Cobb to the final four!

RIP Lou.
 
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#60
University of Illinois
The Lou Henson teams are one of my favorite memories from living in C-U.

The two that top the list would be

The Eddie Johnson shot to defeat MSU and Magic Johnson to make the Illini the Number One team in the country.

The Nick Anderson buzzer beater to defeat Indiana at Indiana.

Lou - legend.

One of my favorite Illini basketball memories (and shots( was Lou calling Bobby Knight a classic bully.
 
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#61
Just wished Lou could have seen the Illini in the postseason tournaments. RIP Coach!
 
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#62
Lou Henson set the bar extremely high for the future of Illini basketball. He also set the bar extremely high for the character of future basketball coaches who have, and will, run the Illini basketball program. Coach Henson never did a single thing that put the University, the basketball program or himself in less than honorable territory. I was never more proud than when Coach Henson went after Knight. Coach was not going to allow the university and the program to be unfairly demeaned and disparaged. Class and dignity is the everlasting hallmark of Coach Henson's tenure at Illinois.

I'm so thankful that Coach Henson got to enjoy seeing the court of Assembly Hall be named for him.

Thank you Lou Henson, may you rest in peace and may your family and those of us who love you be comforted through this time of grief.
 
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#63
The thought of Bobby Knight roasting like a marshmallow is appealing, but Lou is such a class act he will probably put in a good word.
Lou was not a grudge-holder. He appreciated when Knight said nice things about him and gave him a rocking chair before his last game at IU. I saw a few interviewers later on try to goad Lou into ripping Knight, but he wouldn't and both guys had nice things to say about each other when they faced off in an NMSU-Texas Tech game. Knight was also complimentary of Lou in his book.

Originally, Knight respected Lou's dedication to basketball and invited him to be one of the coaches chiming at the '84 Olympic team tryouts in Bloomington. When we started winning games against IU fairly regularly, suddenly Knight started whispering about how Lou was dirty. Knight's awful behavior that triggered the "classic bully" comment was apparently prompted by what he saw as the Illinois SID overzealously pushing for individual B1G honors (Henson for COY, Deon for FOY) in a year when the team had played so well but couldn't go to the NCAAs.

When the probation had knocked our program back to where we weren't a threat to IU, Knight was fine with Henson and said those conflicts were not about Lou but what some of our assistants were doing.
 
#64
I lived 5 houses from Lou and Mary as a young adult and right next door to Loren Tate as a young boy (through HS). So, for me, it is really hard to think of a world without Lou Henson in it. I used to ride my bicycle by their house as a kid and both Lou and Mary always said hi, do you need a drink for your ride ect. I am not sure in today’s world there will ever be another person(s) as nice as those two.
 
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#65
Rockford, Illinois
Besides the scores of incredible victories and few heart-breaking losses, I have so many memories and fun stories connected to Lou that come to mind. He was always so friendly and genuine with my family. One major highlight was the O&B scrimmage that Coach gave into me bugging him and let me (and our Rockford Area Illini Club & Cosmopolitan Club) put on at my Rockford Jefferson High School in Nov. ‘88 where over 3,000 fans packed in to see the start of the Flyin’ Illini team that would go on to the Final Four. My husband and I spent many hours in preparation using the 40 page typed guide list he sent to plan every detail, down to how many pieces of chalk and how many erasers he needed in each locker room. Being honorary coaches and then feeding the team and staff in my cafeteria after the successfully sold out game were unbelievably unforgettable. Coach saying in his drawl when my husband offered a coaching suggestion on the bench, “Now, Bill...” is impressed forever in my brain. Another wonderful memory was the time Coach spent a few hours one afternoon at our home (where he drank beer in my kitchen) between DeKalb and Rockford IFund events with John Makovic (a jerk by comparison) and Dick Martin. More come to mind, including the honored banner raising and the 100 year anniversary party, but his ever-present graciousness and his friendship will never be forgotten. The Illini Basketball family and Illini Nation mourn the loss of not only a great coach and builder of young men, but an even better person who deeply and genuinely cared about his players, fans, and community. Mary and his family, his assistant coaches, and his players are in our thoughts and prayers. Rest In Peace, Coach. 🧡💙
 
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#66
Though I had already moved on to DC and college/grad school by then, my parents (both professors at the U of I) met Lou on one of their evening walks. Lou and Mary lived in the next development down off of South Prospect. Their friendship evolved over the years, culminating with them hosting each other at dinner, and my parents serving as honorary assistant coaches. I wish my dad could remember which game it was, and I would try to track down a picture or video. All I remember is mom talking about what a tightly wound bundle of nerves Ken (the Snake) Norman was, which means it was some time between 1984 and 1987. Unfortunately, mom died over 4 years ago. She was the official memory keeper of the family. What my dad does remember is how kind and gracious Lou was and that Mary was/is a wonderful woman. We also shared a laugh last night that Lou was instantly recognizable thanks to the famous Lou-do.
 
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#67
Besides the scores of incredible victories and few heart-breaking losses, I have so many memories and fun stories connected to Lou that come to mind. He was always so friendly and genuine with my family. One major highlight was the O&B scrimmage that Coach gave into me bugging him and let me (and our Rockford Area Illini Club & Cosmopolitan Club) put on at my Rockford Jefferson High School in Nov. ‘88 where over 3,000 fans packed in to see the start of the Flyin’ Illini team that would go on to the Final Four. My husband and I spent many hours in preparation using the 40 page typed guide list he sent to plan every detail, down to how many pieces of chalk and how many erasers he needed in each locker room. Being honorary coaches and then feeding the team and staff in my cafeteria after the successfully sold out game were unbelievably unforgettable. Coach saying in his drawl when my husband offered a coaching suggestion on the bench, “Now, Bill...” is impressed forever in my brain. Another wonderful memory was the time Coach spent a few hours one afternoon at our home (where he drank beer in my kitchen) between DeKalb and Rockford IFund events with John Makovic (a jerk by comparison) and Dick Martin. More come to mind, including the honored banner raising and the 100 year anniversary party, but his ever-present graciousness and his friendship will never be forgotten. The Illini Basketball family and Illini Nation mourn the loss of not only a great coach and builder of young men, but an even better person who deeply and genuinely cared about his players, fans, and community. Mary and his family, his assistant coaches, and his players are in our thoughts and prayers. Rest In Peace, Coach. 🧡💙
Thanks for this. It inspired me to share my family's Lou story. Right above /\ /\.
It reminds me, somehow I got involved in a Twitter fight about Bobby Knight with of all people John Feinstein - Bobby's official biographer and un-repentant apologist. About whether someone is a great coach simply based on wins and losses and not whether they elevate the play of his team and helps them get to the next level, as players and people. My main point(s) were Lou proved that you can be a great coach, tough, win lots of games, and STILL be a good person that his players loved and remained loyal to forever. And that knowing Lou despised Bobby Knight was all I needed to know about what kind of person the General was in real life. Feinstein wouldn't budge on Bobby, but even he acknowledged Lou was a wonderful man.
 
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#68
The Lou Henson teams are one of my favorite memories from living in C-U.

The two that top the list would be

The Eddie Johnson shot to defeat MSU and Magic Johnson to make the Illini the Number One team in the country.

The Nick Anderson buzzer beater to defeat Indiana at Indiana.

Lou - legend.
I recorded the Indiana game on my VCR and studiously avoided seeing the score all day. I was kneeling right in front of the screen and rolled on the floor like Nick Anderson after seeing that ball splash down. What an amazing feeling. Not to mention the frown on Bobby's face was priceless. I'm sure he hated seeing the Illini celebrating at center court of the "other Assembly Hall". That game and the 2005 Arizona tournament win are easily my two greatest Illinois basketball memories. Maybe we can have some fresh memories this years IF.... there's a full season.
 
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#69
My wife is a duplicate bridge player and her October "Bridge Bulletin" just arrived a few days ago. She pointed out this obituary to me and I thought it worth sharing with you guys and gals.

Lou Henson, 1932 - 2020
Sports fans throughout the nation are mourning the passing of Lou Henson, the legendary head coach of the Fighting Illini basketball team from 1975 to 1996. Our bridge community is saddened, too, by the loss of the most popular player in our area.

Lou was not a well-known bridge player outside central Illinois, but there are few who loved the game more. He and his wife Mary started playing when they were young parents because it was the only entertainment they could afford. As his career became more demanding, he squeezed in games whenever possible, but there wasn't time to pursue it as seriously. That changed when he retired from coaching. He approached bridge with the same passion he devoted to basketball. In his spare time - when he wasn't being honored at an awards ceremony, hosting a charity event or doing a TV interview - he was playing bridge.

Lou and Mary hosted daily games at their home, and Lou was soon persuaded to try duplicate. His first experience was in a Swiss team event at the Illini Regional in Champaign IL. He could barely finish a hand that day without a fan asking for his autograph.

Bridge was put on hold again in 1997 when he returned to coaching at New Mexico State, where he had been head coach before coming to Illinois. In 2003, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and later hospitalized with brain inflammation caused by viral encephalitis. During his long rehabilitation, he found that playing cards was helping him regain his mental and physical functions.

Fully recovered and retired again in 2005, Lou put his energy back into bridge. He studied the game, modernized his bidding and improved rapidly. He became a regular player at Bridge at Ginger Creek in Champaign IL and the Belton Bridge Center at his winter home in Las Cruces NM.

Lou was a bona fide celebrity in Illinois and New Mexico and beyond, but it was his warm personality and love of the game that made him a star with bridge players. Unimpressed with his own fame, he was genuinely interested in other people's lives and he loved hearing their bridge stories. When you came to his table, you didn't have the chance to ask how he was doing because he was cheerfully asking about you. He remembered everyone's names, their kids' names, their scores from last week's game.

Lou was also a great ambassador for our game. He taught many friends to play and he always "talked up" bridge in interviews. "Bridge is truly a game for life, he told a reporter. "Emotionally, it will take you from the depths to the mountaintop and bac k. You will never be bored."

We will miss this great man whose kindness, competitive spirit and unflagging happiness set an example for all of us and took him to that mountaintop, where's he's now winning every hand.

That was written by Karen Walker and I dare say that she very much enjoyed Lou's company over quite a few hands.
A nice tribute to a really nice man.
 
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#70
Thanks for the update. It is an interesting story/obit. It's been ages since I played bridge but I would have brushed up if I had a chance to sit at a table with Lou and Mary.
 
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#71
Washington State
My wife is a duplicate bridge player and her October "Bridge Bulletin" just arrived a few days ago. She pointed out this obituary to me and I thought it worth sharing with you guys and gals.

Lou Henson, 1932 - 2020
Sports fans throughout the nation are mourning the passing of Lou Henson, the legendary head coach of the Fighting Illini basketball team from 1975 to 1996. Our bridge community is saddened, too, by the loss of the most popular player in our area.

Lou was not a well-known bridge player outside central Illinois, but there are few who loved the game more. He and his wife Mary started playing when they were young parents because it was the only entertainment they could afford. As his career became more demanding, he squeezed in games whenever possible, but there wasn't time to pursue it as seriously. That changed when he retired from coaching. He approached bridge with the same passion he devoted to basketball. In his spare time - when he wasn't being honored at an awards ceremony, hosting a charity event or doing a TV interview - he was playing bridge.

Lou and Mary hosted daily games at their home, and Lou was soon persuaded to try duplicate. His first experience was in a Swiss team event at the Illini Regional in Champaign IL. He could barely finish a hand that day without a fan asking for his autograph.

Bridge was put on hold again in 1997 when he returned to coaching at New Mexico State, where he had been head coach before coming to Illinois. In 2003, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and later hospitalized with brain inflammation caused by viral encephalitis. During his long rehabilitation, he found that playing cards was helping him regain his mental and physical functions.

Fully recovered and retired again in 2005, Lou put his energy back into bridge. He studied the game, modernized his bidding and improved rapidly. He became a regular player at Bridge at Ginger Creek in Champaign IL and the Belton Bridge Center at his winter home in Las Cruces NM.

Lou was a bona fide celebrity in Illinois and New Mexico and beyond, but it was his warm personality and love of the game that made him a star with bridge players. Unimpressed with his own fame, he was genuinely interested in other people's lives and he loved hearing their bridge stories. When you came to his table, you didn't have the chance to ask how he was doing because he was cheerfully asking about you. He remembered everyone's names, their kids' names, their scores from last week's game.

Lou was also a great ambassador for our game. He taught many friends to play and he always "talked up" bridge in interviews. "Bridge is truly a game for life, he told a reporter. "Emotionally, it will take you from the depths to the mountaintop and bac k. You will never be bored."

We will miss this great man whose kindness, competitive spirit and unflagging happiness set an example for all of us and took him to that mountaintop, where's he's now winning every hand.

That was written by Karen Walker and I dare say that she very much enjoyed Lou's company over quite a few hands.
A nice tribute to a really nice man.
My parents are about the same age as Lou and also love Bridge and the Illini. Thanks for sharing this, I'm sure they'll enjoy the read.