NMSU coach recovering from viral encephalitis
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Lou Henson is in a wheelchair and has no mobility in his right leg, but the New Mexico State men's basketball coach is optimistic he'll be back on the sidelines this season.
"I'm hoping that sometime after the first of the year, I can coach," Henson said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in Las Cruces. "I told the doctor I can coach in a wheelchair."
The 72-year-old Henson, whose 775 career wins rank seventh all-time among Division I coaches, is recovering at home from his latest health problem -- viral encephalitis.
"He was in a light coma for several days," his wife Mary said. "It was just a tough time."
Henson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, in the summer of 2003. He underwent months of chemotherapy at Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
"The reason he got this [viral encephalitis] was probably because he had compromised his immune system because of the cancer," his wife said.
The cancer didn't keep Henson from coaching last season and although he won't start this season on the bench, he's looking at coaching in a couple months.
Henson said his doctor is concerned the intensity of coaching might be too stressful if he comes back too soon.
"He told me, 'You don't want something else to happen,'" Henson said. "I'm going to come back when he tells me I'm ready."
Henson is an icon in college coaching and, among active coaches, only Bob Knight has more career victories.
Henson, a graduate of New Mexico State, led his alma mater to the Final Four in 1970, then went on to coach for 21 years at Illinois. He took the Illini to the NCAA Tournament 12 times and to the Final Four in 1989.
Henson was admitted to a Las Cruces Hospital on Sept. 28, suffering from flulike symptoms that included fever, vomiting and headaches. When his temperature spiked at 103, the Hensons knew it was more severe than the flu.
"He ran fever of 101 to 104 and started hallucinating. We realized other things were involved," Mary Henson said.
She said her husband lost mobility in his right leg and loss of memory. He doesn't remember anything about his hospital stay.
Once he returned home earlier this month, his passion for coaching resurfaced. He's been studying film of the Aggies' two exhibition games and went to his office for a couple of hours Wednesday.
"He's in full gear now," Mary Henson said.
Even while hospitalized, Henson stayed in touch with assistant coach Tony Stubblefield, who is serving as interim head coach. The Aggies will open the season Friday night at the Top of the World Classic in Alaska.
The Aggies recruited several new players after finishing 13-14 last year.
"We have a very young team, but we've got a chance to be a pretty good ballclub," Henson said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
MORE MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- Source: Pollard with Tide despite legal woes
- Graham becomes 4th to transfer from PSU
- Georgetown's Whittington has torn left ACL
- Baylor's Jackson (knee) can't work out for draft