Women's Basketball Coach Bruce Henderson Passes Away

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Women’s basketball Head Coach Bruce Henderson collapsed during practice and died from an apparent heart-related incident Monday, Dec. 8, at Willamette University. Henderson, in his fourth year as Willamette’s head coach, was 47 years old.

The women’s basketball games scheduled for today against Corban College and Dec. 12-13 at the Oregon Institute of Technology Tournament have been canceled. The team plans to resume competition following the holiday break.

A memorial celebration is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m. in Cone Field House (Sparks Center) at Willamette University.

“Bruce was an amazing man with endless energy and enthusiasm. I don't know of anyone that didn't like Bruce,” WU Director of Athletics Mark Majeski said. “He was always laughing and made others laugh, too. He was upbeat and positive even during the most difficult times. Bruce seemed to know everyone and they all knew him. He cared deeply about people and worked hard, and successfully, to make all of us better people.

“He will be missed by students, faculty, staff, colleagues and friends alike,” Majeski added. “The world has lost one of its great ambassadors.”

Henderson originally arrived at Willamette as a student in 1981. He grew up in Hawaii, and later went back to his home state to coach at the high school level. He played basketball at Willamette and graduated in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.

He returned to the WU campus to serve as assistant men’s basketball coach from 1990-91 through 1993-94 under current Head Coach Gordie James. While assisting with the WU men’s team, he helped the Bearcats achieve an 89-33 (.730) record, including the 1992-93 NAIA Division II National Championship.

From 1994-95 until 1996-97, Henderson served as an assistant coach for the WU women’s basketball team. In 1995-96, the Bearcats qualified for the NAIA Division II Tournament.

Prior to becoming the head coach at Willamette, he was an assistant coach and director of operations for the Oregon State University women’s basketball team. Previously, he was an assistant coach with the women’s basketball team at Portland State University from 1998 until 2004.

Henderson’s 25 years of coaching experience included positions at the NCAA Division III, NCAA Division I, NAIA and high school levels. He joined Willamette as a head coach in 2005-06.

He is survived by his wife, Nikki Binnie-Henderson, by his sister, Belynda Henderson, and by the Willamette women's basketball team. Nikki, also a student-athlete at Willamette, graduated in 1985. Belinda is a resident of Hawaii. The Willamette community is focusing on the well-being of Nikki, Belinda and the women’s basketball team, as well as colleagues of Coach Henderson.

Willamette women's basketball Head Coach Bruce Henderson

Willamette women's basketball Head Coach Bruce Henderson