Lewis’ famed moment nears
When basketball head coach James Dickey woos recruits, the history of sustained success that Guy V. Lewis attained during his 30-year tenure at UH still helps.
The five Final Fours and almost 600 victories that were earned during Lewis’ three decades as head coach helps Dickey paint a picture of what the program could be in the minds of potential players.
“We have utilized what he has accomplished since we’ve been here. It’s just going to be another great accolade to add on to his Final Fours, the terrific players and teams that he has had over the years,” Dickey said.
Lewis is being recognized on Sunday when he is enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The class includes nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton, seven-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino, four-time NCAA Final Four coach Jerry Tarkanian, five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley, NBA All-Star Bernard King and three-time National Coach of the Year Sylvia Hatchell. Five directly elected members were also announced during NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
During his more than 30 years as a coach and player, Lewis’ name became synonymous with UH basketball. Lewis accomplishments took UH’s brand to a new level, said Athletics Director Mack Rhoades.
“When I worked out East or in the Midwest, people knew about the University of Houston because of coach Lewis and Elvin Hayes and Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon of Phi Slama Jama,” Rhoades said. “Just the recognition he has brought to the University has been tremendous.”
Lewis won 592 games and made five Final Four appearances, but he is perhaps most known for being the architect of Phi Slama Jama and the “Game of the Century.”
Phi Slama Jama is known for its highlight reel dunks and two consecutive national title game appearances in the 1980s. The team’s featured future Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
In the 1968 “Game of the Century,” the Cougars took down UCLA 71-69 in the first nationally televised college basketball game.
Lewis enticed former UCLA head coach John Wooden into a matchup between the top ranked teams. Former great Elvin Hayes scored 39 points during the win.
In 1998, Wooden told the San Antonio Express Lewis’ teams were tough to beat.
“The coaches I hated coaching against were the real good ones, and Guy was one of those,” Wooden said. “I think Guy took a bum rap because he never won a national championship.”
Lewis was one of the first major college coaches to recruit African American players, and the Cougars’ success with Hayes and Chaney caused other coaches, especially in the South, to take notice and follow his lead.
Hayes, Olajuwon and Drexler are all Hall of Fame inductees and were voted members of the NBA’s Top 50 Players in 1996-97. All three have campaigned for Lewis’ induction. Hayes was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, but boycotted the Hall since his selection in support of Lewis.
“I’m just glad that people appreciate — and recognize formally at the highest level — just his great accomplishments,” Rhoades said.