Henson still uses cane or walker at times

Updated: March 26, 2005, 6:58 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Former New Mexico State coach Lou Henson, stricken with viral encephalitis six months ago, no longer needs a wheelchair to get around.

Henson, who retired in January just 21 wins shy of becoming only the fifth coach in Division I history to win 800 games, said Saturday he uses a cane or a walker for most activities. He had no mobility in his right leg for months after being stricken and was confined to a wheelchair.

"I got rid of the wheelchair about two weeks ago," Henson said in a telephone interview Saturday, adding that he uses it only if he has been on his feet for long periods of time.

In recent years the 73-year-old Henson also has battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. He was not able to coach this past season because of his health, but continues to work with the Aggies' athletic department.

He was on the search committee that worked on the hiring of a new men's basketball coach.

"He's been going to work every day," said Henson's wife Mary.

Thirty-nine years ago Henson was hired by New Mexico State -- his alma mater -- to take over a men's basketball program that had finished 4-22 the previous season. In his first season (1966-67), Henson led the Aggies to a 15-11 record and an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Aggies nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, losing to Elvin Hayes and Houston 59-58 in the first round.

Henson coached at New Mexico State, his alma mater, from 1966 to 1975, then spent 21 years at Illinois. He returned to New Mexico State after Neil McCarthy was fired just before the start of the 1997-98 season.

In a 41-year career, Henson became the winningest coach at Illinois and New Mexico State and led both schools to the Final Four -- the Aggies in 1970 and the Illini in 1989. He retired with a career record of 779-413.

The ever upbeat Henson said Saturday now that his mobility has improved, his next target is to get back on the golf course.

"I'm hoping we can play in the next couple of months," he said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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