Veteran coach 21 shy of 800 wins

Updated: January 19, 2005, 7:18 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Ailing New Mexico State coach Lou Henson, 21 wins short of becoming only the fifth Division I coach with 800 career victories, will decide after the season whether to retire.

"It will all be settled when the season is over," Henson said Wednesday. "My plans will be revealed. Health is going to be a big factor for me."

Henson has yet to coach this season. The Aggies, under interim coach Tony Stubblefield, are 4-12 overall and winless (0-3) in the Sun Belt Conference heading into Thursday night's game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Henson will get credit for whatever wins the Aggies get this season and his career record currently stands at 779-412.

The 73-year-old has battled a series of health problems in recent years. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer, in the summer of 2003. The cancer now is in remission, but in September he was hospitalized with viral encephalitis, a disease that left him partially paralyzed.

Henson, who is in a wheelchair, planned to return Jan. 8 but suffered another setback when he was hospitalized on Jan. 6 with pneumonia.

McKinley Boston, recently named NMSU's director of athletics, said Wednesday he had met with Henson to discuss the Aggies' basketball program. Boston said he and Henson planned to continue talking.

"We all recognize that it's challenging," Boston said during an interview in Albuquerque. "I think the best way to do this is through these sort of incremental steps. Let's just continue to talk and see where it takes us."

Asked if Henson would be back next season, Boston replied, "we didn't get that far."

"I have no doubt that coach Henson wants what's best for New Mexico State and our program," Boston said. "Coach is aware of the seriousness of it. We talked about recruiting and attendance at games. We tried to talk about his own recovery and tried to begin a healthy discussion about going forward."

Because of the cancer, Henson was not involved in recruiting last year.

"It's been tough for a couple of years," Henson said. "I couldn't get out last year and couldn't get out this year. We have to gear up recruiting."

This season Henson has been able to attend some practices and watch film of the Aggies' season.

He was in his office Wednesday and said he was feeling better but still had lingering effects from the pneumonia.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press