As part of a photo shoot for our annual Answer Book, Mary and Lou Henson on Wednesday agreed to meet us outside the construction zone that is State Farm Center.
While it was their first look at the arena since bulldozers arrived, it wasn’t the first time the topic of renovation surfaced. That conversation started not long after Lou took over as Illinois basketball coach in 1976.
“We always thought it needed air conditioning,” Lou said.
“And I wanted more restrooms for the ladies,” Mary said.
The Hensons were an easy choice to headline our Answer Book, which we’ll publish in August. This year’s theme is “Advice from the Experts” complete with selfies from every “expert.” Guess who was first in line, cellphone in hand?
“Mary stole the show,” Lou said after our interview. “She wouldn’t let me talk.”
We’re glad to report Lou is feeling better these days. A pinched nerve aggravated during a weightlifting session left the 82-year-old with, well, a pain in the neck for more than a month.
He’s back to playing bridge five days a week and watching every NBA playoff game he can. This weekend, he’ll even resume coaching.
Will Edison, his 17-year-old grandson from Ohio, is interested in following Lou’s footsteps. Before he heads to Ohio State — where he’ll serve as a manager on Thad Matta’s staff — Will asked Lou and his longtime assistant, Mark Coomes, if they’d put on a clinic for him in Champaign.
Of course, said Lou, who planned to give Will everything in his playbook. Well, almost everything.
“He’s not going to get my orange coat,” he said. “That’s probably something I’ll never give up.”