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Friday, September 29, 2023

Men's Basketball

Cougars celebrate their Guy

Forward thinking and Five Final Four appearances still hasn’t granted former head coach Guy Lewis access to the Naismith Hall of Fame.

As former player Otis Birdsong pointed out Lewis, 89, does not publicize his omission. But that doesn’t mean Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades and former players like Elvin Hayes and Clyde Drexler won’t.

“I have no idea why Coach Lewis isn’t in the Hall of Fame,” Drexler said. “There’s no plausible explanation for him not being there. None. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone who’s in there because they all deserve to be there, but I think as much as any other coach in the history of college basketball, Guy Lewis deserves to be there.

“When you leave out a guy like Guy Lewis, what you’re saying is we don’t respect his accomplishments.”

Lewis was praised for his contributions to UH and college basketball in a ceremony Friday at the John O’Quinn Great Hall in the Athletics/Alumni Center.

Lewis was known as an innovator for basketball on and off the court. The coach recruited Hayes and Don Chaney, the first two African-American players at UH. He fought for the 1968 Game of the Century in the Astrodome to be nationally-televised. In the 1980s his up-tempo philosophy took UH to three consecutive Final Fours.

Apart from that, though, his former players said that he was a father figure, and knew how to fire up his team.

“Before the games, he was the most inspirational speaker I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some great coaches,” Drexler said. “If you were not fired up to play after listening to him speak for about five minutes, you did not have a pulse.”

Hayes said the guidance of Lewis assisted him into becoming one of the greatest players in NBA history.

“When I met coach Guy Lewis, everything I worked on in my back yard, he polished and shined it into the most beautiful color,” Hayes said.

During the ceremony it was announced that next year the Greater Houston Basketball Committee will give out an award named for Lewis to the best player in the greater-Houston area.

“Coach Lewis set this level of greatness,” Rhoades said. “We’re going to fight like heck to get there again. One day, hopefully sooner than later, coach Lewis becomes a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame. But whether he does or doesn’t that will never diminish his greatness.”

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