Former Illini basketball coach Lou Henson’s cancer returns

By Tim Korte

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Former New Mexico State and Illinois coach Lou Henson is being treated again for cancer but said Wednesday he feels strong and even played golf less than a day after resuming chemotherapy treatments.

“I’ve started taking chemo again. Even though it was a long session, I’m feeling great,” Henson said. “The doctors told me I could do anything I wanted to do today, so I went out and played 18 holes.”

Henson, 75, said he has the same form of intestinal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma he was diagnosed with four years ago. He resumed chemotherapy with an 8«-hour session Tuesday in Champaign, Ill., where he lives during the summer.

Henson said his doctors believe he will need 10 months of treatments.

“It’s a cancer you can’t cure. You can put it into remission,” he said in a telephone interview. “One year after my first treatments, it went into remission. It might have come back recently, maybe two or three weeks ago.”

The recurrence of the illness was first reported by the Las Cruces Sun-News.

Henson is the winningest coach at New Mexico State and Illinois and led both schools to the Final Four – the Aggies in 1970 and the Illini in 1989.

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003 and was hospitalized in 2004 with viral encephalitis, which left his right leg paralyzed.

Henson coached at New Mexico State, his alma mater, from 1966 to 1975, then spent 21 years at Illinois before retiring in 1996. He returned to New Mexico State after Neil McCarthy was fired before the 1997-98 season and stayed on until January 2005.

Henson isn’t planning to come out of retirement again. He praised last month’s hiring of New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies.

“Not hardly. They’ve got an outstanding coach. He’s going to do a great job,” Henson said.