Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Guy V. Lewis, 1922-2015

The legendary University of Houston basketball coach has passed away:

Guy V. Lewis, the self-professed “good ol’ boy from Arp” and father of the Phi Slama Jama basketball dynasty at the University of Houston, has died. He was 93.

Lewis died Thursday in Kyle.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Hall of Fame Coach Guy V. Lewis, who passed away this morning," UH athletic director Hunter Yurachek said on Twitter. "A true Cougar legend."

With his signature red polka-dot towel in hand, Lewis was the winningest coach in UH history, compiling 592 victories and making five Final Four trips while coaching such stars as Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in 30 seasons from 1956 to 1986.

Off the court, he was regarded as a visionary and innovator for putting together the 1968 “Game of the Century” against top-ranked UCLA at the Astrodome and for being one of the first college basketball coaches to embrace racial integration in the South.

“He belongs on a pedestal with the greatest coaches ever to coach the game,” Drexler said. “Where the game of basketball is today is because of Guy V. Lewis.”

I'm glad Lewis lived long enough to see himself finally get inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Given his contributions to the sport, he should have been inducted much sooner. The fact that he never won a national championship - North Carolina State's miracle finish against the Cougars in the 1983 NCAA Championship will always be a dark spot in this city's sports history - was the only blemish on his amazing legacy.
“The coaches I hated coaching against were the real good ones, and Guy was one of those,” legendary UCLA coach John Wooden said in 1998. “I think Guy took a bum rap because he never won a national championship.”
Lewis led the Cougars to Final Four appearances in 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983 and 1984. Those accomplishments seem even more amazing today, considering the dumpster fire that UH basketball has been lately.
Guy Vernon Lewis was born on March 19, 1922, in Arp, Texas, just outside Tyler, the son of an independent oil wildcatter at the height of the East Texas oil boom.

After serving as an Army Air Corps flight instructor in World War II, Lewis returned and played two years at Rice and eventually decided to attend UH in 1946. A 6-foot-3 co-captain, Lewis was the leading scorer on the first two UH basketball teams in 1946-47.

Lewis returned to UH for the 1953-54 season, serving two seasons as an assistant before his promotion to head coach when Alden Pasche retired in 1956.

UH reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 1961, one of 14 appearances under Lewis. In all, Lewis coached 15 All-Americans and 10 NBA first-round picks, among them Donnie Schyerak, Gary Phillips, Hayes, Chaney, Drexler, Olajuwon, Dwight Davis, Dwight Jones, Otis Birdsong, Rob Williams and Michael Young.

Three players – Hayes, Drexler and Olajuwon – are in the Hall of Fame and were voted among the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time.
Guy and his wife, Dena, who passed away shortly before he did, lived in the same University Oaks neighborhood where I grew up and where my parents still live. So it's not a stretch to say that I've lost a neighbor as well as a legend. 

Thank you, Guy, and rest in peace.

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