It's official--Illinois basketball is set to honor its all-time winningest coach in a huge way. During a press conference on Monday afternoon, athletic director Mike Thomas will announce the naming of Lou Henson Court at State Farm Center. The news was first confirmed by ABC's Ryan Baker via Twitter on Sunday.
Henson, who came to Champaign in 1975, led Illinois to a 423-224 (214-164) record and 12 NCAA Tournament appearances during his 21-year tenure. Henson is perhaps most well known for guiding the 1988-89 'Flying Illini' to the program's fourth Final Four on the back of a 31-5 (14-4) record. That group is still considered by many to be the best team in the history of Illinois basketball.
Henson was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in February after compiling a career coaching record of 779-412 at Hardin Simmons (D-III), New Mexico State, and Illinois.
According Ryan Baker, the original plan was to honor Henson during the reopening of the State Farm Center on December 2nd. However Henson, 83, was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder back in June and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment. His health issues presumably played a huge role in the accelerated timeframe.
The State Farm Center is currently in Phase 4 of a three-year, $169.5 million renovation that will make the venue one of the nicest in the country. During a media tour on Wednesday, Illinois associate athletic director Warren Hood told reporters that the renovations are completely on schedule. He also detailed that the project, which is currently about 64 percent complete, will be 80 percent finished by the time of Illinois' first home game of the 2015-16 season.
That first contest will be on Dec. 2 against Notre Dame as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Before that, however, the Illini will be playing five 'home games' (including one exhibition) at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill.
The remaining 20% of the renovation--which will include the locker rooms and overhead scoreboard--is scheduled to be completed next offseason. The overall capacity of the arena will decrease by 1,000 to about 15,700, but the Orange Krush student section will increase by 700 to 1,200 available seats.
With the naming of Lou Henson Court now finalized, there's really only one other major project that fans have been begging for: a statue for Illini football legend Dick Butkus outside of Memorial Stadium. Hopefully that wish comes to fruition in the very near future.