LOS ANGELES (AP) _ New Mexico State athletic director Jim Paul probably pinched himself when Lou Henson agreed to come out of retirement and coach the men’s basketball team.
Not only was Paul getting one of the greatest college coaches of all time, he was getting him for $1 a month.
Henson agreed to return to his alma mater to coach the Aggies pro bono while helping Paul find a replacement for coach Neil McCarthy, who was reassigned to be assistant athletic director days before the start of practice.
``Now, for all these high-priced coaches, I’m trying to set a trend to try to get the other coaches to maybe cut their salaries in half or work much cheaper than what they’re working for,″ Henson joked.
Legally, the school is required to pay Henson, so he will receive a dollar bill every month.
Henson ranks seventh on the list of all-time winningest coaches with 663 victories. He launched his career at New Mexico State, compiling a 173-61 record from 1966-1975. In 1970, he guided the Aggies to the Final Four.
Henson spent 21 years as head coach at Illinois, where he produced five current NBA players, including Kendall Gill (New Jersey) and Derek Harper (Dallas) before he retired in 1996. He compiled a 663-331 career record and took the Fighting Illini to the Final Four in 1996.
``I thought just filling in for this year, there wouldn’t be any pressure on you, so you could just have fun, but it doesn’t work that way,″ Henson said Wednesday at the annual Big West basketball coaches’ media day. ``You put tremendous pressure on yourself to try to do as well as you can, particularly since I’m coming back to Las Cruces.″
He will have a team that is talented but not deep. Returning to the Aggies, who were 19-9 under McCarthy last season, are forward Louis Richardson, who averaged 18.1 points and 6.4 rebounds; and shooting guard Denmark Reid, who averaged 11.1 points.
Henson also will have highly regarded point guard Dominic Ellison, who transferred from Washington State.
``We’ve got nine scholarship players, one kid injured, so we have seven players and a freshman,″ Henson said. ``As far as quality, we have good quality, but we don’t have much depth.
``We don’t have anybody to go against in practice, so we can’t afford injuries.″
Henson retired in 1996 so he could spend more time with his grandchildren and travel with his wife. Asked if there was any chance he would come out of retirement for good, he laughed and replied: ``Divorces are way too expensive. We’ve gone through 41 seasons, so this will be 42.″