Sign of a great coach

Sign of a great coach

CHAMPAIGN – When Lou Henson comes back to Champaign-Urbana this weekend, he's going to find a familiar street renamed after a true gentleman.

First Street, between Kirby Avenue and St. Mary's Road, passing right by Assembly Hall, is going to be sporting new honorary street signs designating the street as Lou Henson Court.

Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart proposed the idea to honor the 21-year University of Illinois basketball coach Tuesday night at a city council study session. He won unanimous approval for the idea.

Henson and hundreds of other UI alumni are going to be in town this weekend for the UI Basketball Centennial Celebration. Henson was a big part of the past century of UI basketball, coaching the team from the 1975-76 season through the 1995-96 season. The winningest coach in school history had a record of 423-224 – a .654 winning percentage. He coached the 1988-89 Flyin' Illini team to the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Schweighart said a caller to Monday's "Penny for Your Thoughts," a 9 to 11 a.m. talk radio show on WDWS-AM, suggested the idea of the honorary street name on the air. Somebody heard it and called Schweighart.

"I thought it was a great idea," Schweighart said.

The mayor then talked with Champaign City Manager Steve Carter, and they decided to plunge ahead, quickly securing the UI's approval for the designation. Because the street signs need to be made quickly, the usual public notice requirements for bringing up a subject at a study session were lacking. A few council members grumbled about that, but nobody felt strongly enough to nix the idea.

"Mr. Henson is really the epitome of the qualities we'd like to see coming out of the University of Illinois," said council member Kathy Ennen. "I think to delay would be inappropriate."

Ennen and other council members noted that Henson is facing serious health problems and that the time to honor him is this weekend, when both he and his wife, Mary, will be in town.

Schweighart said a Lou Henson Court street sign will be given to Henson at halftime of this Saturday's game against the University of Minnesota.

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