Thursday, April 04, 2013

Guy Lewis finally gets his due

It's a travesty that it has taken this long, but I guess later is better than never.
Former University of Houston coach Guy V. Lewis, who won nearly 600 games, was the architect of the high-flying, rim-rattling Phi Slama Jama dynasty of the 1980s and helped integrate college basketball in the South, will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, a person familiar with the selection process said Thursday.  
Later Thursday, Lewis' wife, Dena, said the 91-year-old legendary coach received the news of his induction after years of being passed over.  
"We think it's great," Dena Lewis said. "Long overdue. I cried when I heard."

Asked how Lewis, who retired in 1986, reacted, she said: "He said, 'That's great.'"
It's a bit ironic that this announcement came on the same day as the 30th anniversary of the game that many people believe kept him out of the Hall of Fame for so long - Houston's stunning 52-54 loss to North Carolina State in the 1983 NCAA Baskebtall Championship (the second-biggest chokejob in Houston sports history, and something I'll always be bitter about). But there's way more to Guy Lewis, and his contributions to the sport of college basketball, than that game. Lewis won 592 games and took the Coogs to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and five Final Fours during his thirty-year career as head coach of the Cougars. And that's just the beginning:
Among his other contributions, Lewis was the architect of the "Game of the Century" between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 UH at the Astrodome in 1968. The game, won by the Cougars 71-69 to snap the Bruins' 47-game winning streak, drew a crowd of 52,693 and was the first regular-season college basketball game televised nationally.  
Lewis is also credited as one of the first college basketball coaches to embrace racial integration in the South during the 1960s, signing Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney as the first African-American players in program history.
Again, Guy Lewis should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. But I'm nevertheless happy that it's finally happened, and I'm glad he lived long enough to see this long-overdue honor bestowed upon him. Congratulations!

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