Lou Henson, who coached Illinois’ basketball teams to more victories — 423 — than anyone else, was buried Wednesday, four days after dying peacefully in his Champaign home.
The man from Okay, Okla., who made an orange blazer an instantly recognizable part of the Illini brand, was hired by the school in 1975 and coached there until 1996. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
Henson took the Illini to 12 NCAA Tournaments and 11 20-win seasons. He won a Big Ten title in 1984 and most famously led the team nicknamed the Flyin’ Illini to the Final Four in 1989. Henson ranks fifth all-time among Big Ten coaches in total wins and — with 214 — conference wins.
Before and after his stint in Champaign, Henson coached at his alma mater, New Mexico State. One of only 14 coaches who have taken two schools to the Final Four, he got the Aggies there in 1970. He also leads all New Mexico State coaches in victories, with 289 of them, and ranks 15th in Division I history with 779 wins.
“Our Orange and Blue hearts are heavy,” Illini athletic director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We have lost an Illini icon. We have lost a role model, a friend and a leader. We have lost our coach. Coach Henson may be gone, but the memories he provided us, and the legacy he created, will last forever.”
Henson battled health problems, including cancer, late in life.