"The Game" -- UH 71 UCLA 69
Put Guy V in the Hall!
The University of Houston has a basketball tradition that is unmatched in the state of Texas, and for that matter, the entire southwest.  With Final Fours, major conference titles, 20- and 30-win seasons, Hall of Fame players, top ten rankings, and NBA first-round draft picks as your guide, there is no more significant man in the rise of basketball in this region than Guy V. Lewis.
Beyond the numbers, which stand firmly on their own, Coach Lewis was a catalyst in the growth and acceptance of basketball in a state where football clearly reins king.  Instead of basketball serving as a time-fill between the end of the football season and the beginning of spring football, Lewis made certain that Texans opened their eyes to the sport that his Cougars dominated in the Lone Star state.
Through all of the honors and accomplishments, there is one thing noticeably lacking from the overwhelming resume of Guy V. Lewis: Induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Coach Lewis would never ask anyone or want anyone to do this for him--he's just that honorable of a man.  However, the facts speak for themselves: In terms of basketball coaches, he is a legend and it's an outright shame that the man is not in the Hall of Fame.
Guy V's accomplishments:
- 32 years as a head coach
- 592 career wins
- Five Final Fours
- Two national title games
- Three 30-plus-win seasons
- 4 conference championships
- Produced 10 first round NBA draft selections, and 29 NBA players in total
- Only coach to have produced 3 of the NBA's top 50 players
- Winning Coach of the "Game of the Century" vs. UCLA in the Astrodome
- Named national coach of the year in 1968, and again in 1983
- Coach of four Southwest Conference Tournament champions--1978, 1981, 1983 and 1984
Most All-Time Final Four Appearances by Head Coaches
- John Wooden (12)
- Dean Smith (10)
- Mike Krzyzewski (8)
- Adolph Rupp (6)
- Denny Crum (6)
- Bob Knight (5)
- Guy V. Lewis (5)
Synonymous with basketball at the University of Houston, Guy V. Lewis has played an important role in the program's success from day one.  Lewis scored 19 points to lead Houston to a 62-35 victory over defending Lone Star Conference champion North Texas State in its very first game on January 10, 1946.  Less than a month later, Lewis scored 34 points against Southwest Texas State, becoming the first in a long line of Cougar greats to score 30-or-more in a game.  While serving as team captain, he led the Cougars to Lone Star Conference titles and national tournament berths in 1946 and 1947.
Less than a decade later, Lewis became Houston’s second head coach, and began one of the more storied careers in the history of college basketball.  In his 30 years, Lewis won 592 games while recruiting and nurturing some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, including Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
In the late 1960’s, with much of Texas still segregated and with Texas and Texas A&M still fielding all-white teams, Lewis broke the color barrier by recruiting Elvin Hayes out of the cotton fields of Rayville, Louisiana.  Hayes attributed many of his basketball successes with the way he was treated during his time at Houston.  He credited the coaches at UH, especially Coach Lewis, as being the first whites he had ever met who treated him with respect.  "They helped me overcome 18 years of hate," Hayes remembered.
Having grown up in a segregated southern town, Hayes harbored a great deal of mistrust when he entered college.  As his college adjusted to him, and he adjusted to life in the big city, Coach Lewis took the player under his wing, brought him home for meals, and made him almost a part of Lewis's family.  The chip on Hayes's shoulder began to feel lighter.
It was this dedication that made Lewis unique.  Aside from helping Hayes make basketball the avenue for his lifelong success, he aided him in becoming an all-around human, one who would be able to change with the times.
“Coach Lewis was the only man who could have done what he did to help me,” Hayes said.  “He was a father, a coach, and a friend, and I’ve tried to model my life after his example.”
Hayes went on to become one of the greatest players in basketball history, but he always credited Coach Lewis with allowing him the opportunity to play, as well as the opportunity to mature.
While Hayes, Don Chaney, and Ken Spain were in school, Houston played a style of basketball that gave opposing teams fits.  Coach Lewis preached the dunk to his teams as being the highest-percentage shot possible, and UCLA coach John Wooden still gives Coach Lewis credit as being the reason that the NCAA banned the shot for close to a decade between the late-1960’s and 1976.
The 1967-68 team, facing Lew Alcindor and the mighty UCLA Bruins, pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time, beating Wooden’s Westwood Bruins 71-69 in front of over 53,000 in the Houston Astrodome.  Hayes had a sensational night, knocking down two free throws with 28 seconds left en route to scoring 39 points and pulling down 15 rebounds.  Equally as impressive, Hayes held Alcindor to 15 points and 12 rebounds in the first-ever nationally televised college basketball game.  The 53,693 in attendance was a college basketball record that stood until the Final Four moved into the larger domed facilities in 1982.  The Cougar win snapped UCLA’s 47-game winning streak.  Houston and UCLA would meet again in the Final Four with the Bruins continuing their domination of the NCAA Tournament.
Almost 15 years later, Lewis was still winning 20-plus games a year at UH when a Houston Post columnist penned the words that would change Houston basketball forever.  With a simple three-word phrase, Tommy Bonk created a monster as he nicknamed the Cougars Phi Slama Jama, Texas’ roundball fraternity.  The name took off like wildfire, and the team continued to roll, all the way back to the Final Four.
Guy Lewis and his dunking fraternity became a national phenomenon, compiling the nation’s best record, a 31-3 mark, while putting together the nation’s longest winning streak (26 games).  In one of the greatest NCAA Tournament games of all time, the Cougars defeated second-ranked Louisville and became the first-ever UH team to play for the national title.  Although Houston fell to North Carolina State in one of the most surprising upsets of all-time, Lewis cemented his place as one of the great coaches ever.  After adding another Final Four a year later—five in all—Coach Lewis had become a living legend in the basketball world.
Those who covered his teams were as impressed with Coach Lewis and his team’s as the Houston fans.  Sports writers from all over raved about his dedication to the game, as well as his human side as well.
"Guy Lewis did as much as anyone for college basketball in
Texas and the Southwest,” Kevin Singleton, a Dallas Morning News columnist and former Houston Post writer, said.  “And no one did as much with such a small ego.  He demanded that his players execute, but he let them play, and they played as hard for him as any teams I ever saw."
“So often, Coach Lewis was criticized for just ‘rolling the ball out there and letting them play.’ I always thought that was unfair,” said Thomas Bonk, the L.A. Time columnist and former Houston Post writer who coined the phrase Phi Slama Jama.  “Guy Lewis took a lot of raw talent and meshed it together, putting together three Final Four teams in a row.  Even with the talent he had, it took just the right blend of coaching and care to get his teams to perform.”
“There is something almost bizarre about the very notion that the record of Lewis, who spoon-fed the Cougars into a national power, needs to be defended,” longtime Houston Chronicle columnist Mickey Herskowitz recently wrote in the Chronicle.  “You suspect Guy is being punished for taking the Cougars to five Final Fours without winning a national championship.  It is an oversight Lewis surely regrets.  But contending for the title five times -- and losing the championship game twice -- is a monumental achievement, not a scandal.”
After amassing one of the greatest records of all time, Lewis has been overlooked for the Basketball Hall of Fame for over 15 years.  As deserving as Coach Lewis is of the Hall, the Hall is more deserving of Lewis.  Without him in the sport’s hall of fame, the game of basketball has disserviced one of its greatest ambassadors.
The "H" Association thanks Ryan Monceaux for writing this article and his many other contributions to this page.
Last Updated on 3/28/01
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