Guy Lewis elected to Hall of Fame

Guy Lewis elected to Hall of Fame
April 4, 2013, 4:45 pm
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Drexler is thrilled for Guy Lewis

The time has finally come.

Former University of Houston men's basketball coach Guy V. Lewis has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, CSN Houston has learned. The official announcement of the newest members of the 2013 class will be made Monday at the Final Four in Atlanta.

During his 30-year career at UH (1956-1986), Lewis won 592 games with 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament, including five Final Four appearances.

Lewis was the architect of the “Game of the Century” in 1968 between top-ranked UCLA and No. 2 UH at the Astrodome, with the Cougars winning 71-69. That game featured Elvin Hayes of Houston and the Bruins star then known as Lew Alcindor, both of whom are now members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lewis was also among the first coaches to integrate the Southwest Conference in the 1960s, signing Hayes and Don Chaney as the first African-American players in program history.

He also brought together one of the most exciting teams in the history of college basketball in the early 1980s. The Phi Slama Jama Cougars featured Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, and reached the Final Four three consecutive years. Houston lost the national championship game in 1983 to North Carolina State and to Georgetown in 1984.

It was the last-second loss in 1983 to Jim Valvano’s Wolfpack team that is widely thought to be the biggest reason Lewis wasn’t previously elected to the Hall of Fame.

Lewis, 91, was announced as a finalist at this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston. That was after a five-year period of ineligibility after not receiving enough support for three straight years (2005-07).

A few days before that announcement, a few of Lewis’ former players were recognized at the UH vs. UTEP game and had high hopes for his chances of being inducted this year.  

“I feel good about it,” said Ollie Taylor, who was a guard/forward from 1968-70. “I think this is his year. It’s his time. Nobody can seem to figure out why he hasn’t been voted in already. The track record is there but for some strange reason he’s been overlooked.”

“It will be one of my happiest moments (if he gets it),” said Dwight Davis, who was a forward from 1969-72. “I just feel  he should’ve had it 15-20 years ago so he could really enjoy it (reporter interrupts but picks back up here) but there’s been some challenge for voters to vote for him and I don’t’ understand why.”

“I’m almost to the point where I hate talking about it because it’s an embarrassment that we even have to discuss Guy Lewis going into the Hall of Fame,” said Otis Birdsong, who was a guard from 1973-77. “It’s such a joke. His credentials, the players that he’s coached, what he’s meant to basketball as a whole – he should be in the Hall of Fame. There’s no doubt. When you look at his body of work and compare it to some of the coaches that are in there, he definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

And on this special day, another Hall of Famer expresses his joy.

"Very happy for Coach Lewis, his family and Cougar Nation," Drexler said.