Men's Basketball

Hall makes Lewis’ enshrinement official

While a player, legendary head coach Guy Lewis (37) was team captain of the University’s first two teams in 1946 and 1947.  |  Courtesy of UH Athletics

While a player, legendary head coach Guy Lewis (37) was team captain of the University’s first two teams in 1946 and 1947. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Nearly 20 years after Guy V. Lewis called his last play in 1986, he was still helping the Cougars win basketball games.

Lewis visited practice the day before a 2005 contest with Memphis, and the players responded with a win that then-head coach Tom Penders dedicated to him.

“You think of (Lewis) coaching and playing here, and he was involved in about 70 percent of the wins here, and that’s unbelievable. Hopefully, he’ll get some recognition for this, because he is the University of Houston,” Penders said after the game.

On Monday, Lewis officially got the recognition that Penders sought eight years ago.

National broadcaster and UH alumnus Jim Nantz hosted Lewis’ official enshrinement press conference into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Nantz said Lewis was instrumental in getting his broadcast career going, so it was fitting that he was allowed to announce Lewis’ enshrinement.

“He’s a teacher, a mentor and a believer in people. It’s a great thrill to be able to say for the man who actually started my career as a student. He trusted me to be his host. A man I deeply admire,” Nantz said. “I know Houston is rejoicing right now at this very sentence. Welcome to the Hall Guy V. Lewis.”

Athletics director Mack Rhoades, who took the trip to Atlanta to watch the press conference, said it was a special moment to see Nantz announce Lewis.

“Knowing him as well as I do, I know how much this meant to him as well. He has great love for the University and coach Lewis,” Rhoades said. “With him being an alum, you couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

The others announced Monday at the Final Four ceremony were former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian and Sylvia Hatchell of North Carolina, former NBA stars Bernard King and Gary Payton and former University of Virginia star Dawn Staley.

Lewis’ career as head coach didn’t start the way that it finished.

He had three losing seasons in his first three years as head coach but finished his career with 27 consecutive winning seasons, winning 592 games from 1956-86. Lewis engineered 11 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons.

Lewis also helped grow the college basketball into the sport it is today. He coaxed legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden into participating in the “Game of the Century,” which was the first nationally-televised college basketball game ever. The Cougars defeated the Bruins 71-69, snapping their 47-game losing streak at the Astrodome in 1968 in front of more than 50,000 fans.

Elvin Hayes, perhaps the greatest player in UH history, couldn’t have played at UH if Lewis wasn’t the Cougars’ head coach — Lewis was the first coach in Texas to recruit black players.

Hayes said he is happy that Lewis is finally getting into the Hall of Fame, and that this moment was long overdue.

“To me, this is one of the greatest wrongs that has been made right. I am ecstatic. It is tremendous to hear that Guy V. Lewis is in the Basketball Hall of Fame… He was a hard worker, he was dedicated to the University, his players and his family, and he made sacrifices … to take on another family (his teams) each year. He is just a super, unique and caring person.”

Rhoades said induction is an official validation to the entire athletics department and Lewis’ career.

“I think it’s just validates the great success the University has had in all of its sports programs, and certainly now the men’s basketball program. It was a very well deserving honor. If you think about the great players he coached — an Elvin Hayes, a Clyde Drexler or Hakeem Olajuwon — it’s a great moment.”

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