Last month, the UI’s College of Applied Health Science devoted its annual Sapora Symposium to the life, times — and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame worthiness — of the late, great Lou Henson. Today, one of the symposium’s participants — Henson assistant and nephew MARK COOMES — offers a letter of thanks.
The effort to support coach Henson’s nomination to the Naismith Hall of Fame could not have been made without the enormous support from institutional leaders at Hardin-Simmons, New Mexico State and Illinois, or without the individual letters to the Hall from folks like Ed Hightower, Rob Evans and Jim Phillips, each of whom were important panelists in the symposium.
Mary Henson’s advice along the way was invaluable, as were letters from former Illinois players Eddie Johnson, Kendall Gill and Ken Norman and Naismith Hall of Fame coaches, including Big Ten colleague Tom Izzo and former Illinois head coach Bill Self. (Big thanks to Kent Brown for his assistance.)
Dave Dorris, Craig Bazzani and friends in New Mexico led the effort in securing proclamations and resolutions from the governors and legislatures in both Illinois and New Mexico — and especially heartening were wonderful letters from nine current and former university presidents/chancellors.
Regarding local support, The News-Gazette and WDWS — big shoutout to Matt Daniels, Bob Asmussen, Scott Richey, Loren Tate and Steve Kelly — were very helpful in presenting lead articles and giving airtime about the event and how Lou affected the lives of Ed Hightower, coach Rob Evans and Vice President and Northwestern AD Jim Phillips.
All told, over 40 individual items have been sent to the Hall, the capstone of which was a tape of the symposium that was organized and directed by Michael Raycraft in the College of Applied Health Sciences.
I would suggest Illinois’ athletes, staff members and fans view this symposium to better understand what this country was like 58 years ago and how Lou helped to change it. Unfortunately, coach Henson is no longer with us, but he was a true trailblazer and a historic change-maker during his career by helping thousands of people.
If you haven’t viewed Dr. Raycraft’s production, it is still available at ahs.illinios.edu/Henson.
It is also interesting, after having many encounters with people in the know, that this is the first legitimate effort to get Coach inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
He became eligible in January of 2005 when viral encephalitis struck him down and he retired for good because of medical reasons.
Retired federal Judge Mike McCuskey once told me getting someone into any Hall of Fame is very political — you know who’s for you, but you never know who’s against you. Well put by the judge.
When you combine Lou’s three straight state high school championships, his 42 years of extraordinary college coaching, his willingness to help and support individuals and treat everyone with respect, he unquestionably led a Hall of Fame life.
So, with the support from so many in the academy, government and sports, we’re hopeful coach Henson will be given full consideration for induction into the Hall in the near future.