Lou Henson a Great Mentor to New DePaul Coach Tony Stubblefield


Yesterday brought the product launch/rollout of the Tony Stubblefield era of DePaul Blue Demons basketball. In his opening statement, Stubblefield provided his full CV, from his first opportunity, under Tim Carter at Texas-San Antonio, to his most recent stop, as a full-time assistant at Oregon.

Coach Stubbs went through the whole resume, which includes Texas-Arlington, New Mexico State and Cincinnati. At NMSU, he worked under the legendary Lou Henson, and even served as interim coach during the 2004–2005 season due to Henson’s illness.

After the intro presser at WinTrust Arena (yes an IRL event! Not “virtual” nonsense), Tony Stubblefield did a Zoom call with the group of reporters who weren’t in attendance live, and it was there we asked him about his relationship with the late, great Lou Henson.

“Lou was a great people person,” said Stubblefield, from the janitor to the (University) President, you wouldn’t know who was who if you were with Lou Henson.”

“Lou Henson was a great person who really valued relationships and as far as learning how to treat people, Lou was the best. He was a genuine good guy.”

Henson passed away at the age of 88 this past July.

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The winningest coach at both New Mexico State and Illinois, both schools named their court after him. Lou Henson went 423-224 during his 21-year-stay in Champaign, reaching the NCAA Tournament a dozen times, and winning 20 games on 11 occasions.

Henson is fifth all-time among Big Ten coaches in wins (423) and league wins (214). He’s also just one of 14 coaches to lead two different teams to the Final Four.

“He had a great basketball mind,” Tony Stubblefield continued. “Offensively, when it comes to putting guys in the right situations, and it all goes back to having versatile guys. Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Kendall Gill- those guys that could play and guard multiple positions, who could do a lot of great things on the floor.

“I learned a lot from Lou Henson, and he and his wife Mary were great to me, treated me like family.”

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Henson was great at recruiting Chicago, throughout his entire career, and Stubbs just mentioned three guys, all members of the famed 1989 Flyin’ Illini team, who all hailed from the Chicagoland area.

At his presser yesterday, Stubblefield made it absolutely crystal clear- he is focused on recruiting Chicago and Chicagoland hard, and locking it all down locally. Naturally, we had to ask what the key is to recruiting here/what made Henson so good and recruiting this area.

“You got to get started early, and make it so kids can’t say no to staying at home and coming to DePaul,” Stubblefield replied.

nick anderson illini basketball lou henson

“So we got to get started early in the process, at building those relationships, but there’s no eason we can’t keep these young men at home. The city of Chicago, the suburbs, the state of Illinois, there’s great coaches here, there’s great AAU programs here, so you know you’re getting a kid that’s been well coached.”

Of course, there is a long way to go towards making people believe DePaul can be a power again, like they were from the mid 1970s to late 1980s. It’s going to be massive step just to get back to relevance, but, at the risk of sounding extremely cliche, every long journey begins with a single step.

While the influence of Lou Henson has been massive on Stubblefield, it’s not his New Mexico State days that really got him this gig. It’s more due to his time at Oregon.

“In 2010 I was afforded the opportunity to go to the University of Oregon and work for Dana Altman, which was
again in a situation where it was a rebuild program,” Stubblefield said.

“We were very fortunate we were able to get that program off the ground and running, but it took some hard work, and
we really had to roll up our sleeves, and as DeWayne (Peevy, DPU Athletic Director) said, we were fortunate enough to go to eight NCAA tournaments, a Final Four, Sweet 16s, Elite 8, win back-to-back Pac 12 championships.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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