Guy V. Lewis dies at age 93

Coached Hous­ton’s Phi Slama Jama teams

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM -

For­mer Univer­sity of Hous­ton men’s bas­ket­ball coach Guy V. Lewis, best known for lead­ing the Phi Slama Jama teams of the 1980s, has died. He was 93.

He died at a re­tire­ment fa­cil­ity in Kyle, Texas, on Thanks­giv­ing morn­ing sur­rounded by fam­ily, the school said Thurs­day.

Lewis coached the Cougars for 30 years. He guided Hous­ton to back-to-back NCAA ti­tle games in 1983 and ‘84 but never won the na­tional cham­pi­onship, los­ing to N.C. State in the 1983 fi­nal on Lorenzo Charles’ last-sec­ond shot, one of the NCAA Tour­na­ment’s great­est up­sets and most mem­o­rable plays.

“It feels aw­ful,’’ Lewis said af­ter that game. “I’ve never lost a game that didn’t feel that way, but this one was ter­ri­ble.’’

Lewis, who helped lead the in­te­gra­tion of col­lege bas­ket­ball in the South by re­cruit­ing Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney to Hous­ton, was in­ducted into the Nai­smith Me­mo­rial Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Known for plaid jack­ets and wring­ing his hands with a red polka-dot towel dur­ing games, Lewis com­piled a 592-279 record at Hous­ton, guid­ing the Cougars to 27 con­sec­u­tive win­ning sea­sons from 1959-85. He was hon­oured as the na­tional coach of the year twice (1968 and ‘83) and led Hous­ton to 14 NCAA Tour­na­ments and five Fi­nal Fours.

Lewis had mostly avoided the spot­light since re­tir­ing in 1986. He suf­fered a stroke in Fe­bru­ary 2002 and had used a wheel­chair in re­cent years.

He was known for putting to­gether the “Game of the Cen­tury’’ at the Astrodome in 1968 be­tween Hous­ton and UCLA. It was the first reg­u­lar-sea­son game to be broad­cast on na­tional tele­vi­sion. Hous­ton de­feated the Bru­ins in front of a crowd of more than 52,000, which, at that time, was the largest ever to watch an in­door bas­ket­ball game.

Lewis at­tended the in­tro­duc­tory news con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber 2007 for Kevin Sum­lin, the first black foot­ball coach in Hous­ton history. It was a sym­bolic, sig­nif­i­cant ap­pear­ance be­cause Lewis signed Hous­ton’s first two black bas­ket­ball play­ers and some of the first in the re­gion in Hayes and Chaney in 1964, when pro­grams were just start­ing to in­te­grate.

Hayes and Chaney led the Cougars to the pro­gram’s first Fi­nal Four in 1967 but lost to Lew Al­cin­dor’s UCLA team in the semi­fi­nal game.

“Bas­ket­ball in the state of Texas and through­out the South is all due to coach Guy V. Lewis,’’ Hayes said in 2013. “He put ev­ery­thing on the line to step out and in­te­grate his pro­gram. Not only that, he had vi­sion to say: ‘Hey, we can play a game in the Hous­ton Astrodome.’ Not only that, he just was such a mo­ti­va­tor and such an in­no­va­tor that cre­ated so many doors for the game of bas­ket­ball to grow.’’

Along with Hayes, Lewis also coached fel­low All-Amer­i­cans Ha­keem Ola­ju­won and Clyde Drexler. The three were in­cluded on the NBA’s Top 50 great­est play­ers list in 1996. Lewis and North Carolina’s Dean Smith were the only men to coach three play­ers from that list while they were in col­lege.

Play­ers and CBS an­nouncer Jim Nantz lob­bied for years for Lewis to get into the Nai­smith Hall of Fame. When he fi­nally re­ceived the hon­our in 2013 he made a rare pub­lic ap­pear­ance. It was dif­fi­cult for him to con­vey his thoughts in words in his later years be­cause of apha­sia from his strokes, so his daugh­ter spoke on his be­half at the event to cel­e­brate his in­duc­tion.

“It’s pure joy and we’re not even up­set that it took so long. ... Dad is used to win­ning in over­time,’’ Sherry Lewis said.

Lewis an­nounced his re­tire­ment dur­ing the 1985-86 sea­son, and the Cougars fin­ished 14-14, his first non-win­ning sea­son since 1958-59.

Guy Ver­non Lewis II was born in Arp, a town of fewer than 1,000 res­i­dents in north­east Texas. He be­came a flight in­struc­tor for the U.S. Army dur­ing World War II and en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Hous­ton in 1946.

He joined the bas­ket­ball team, av­er­aged 21.1 points and led the Cougars to the Lone Star Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship. By the early 1950s, he was work­ing as an as­sis­tant coach un­der Alden Pasche and took over when Pasche re­tired in 1956.

Fu­neral ser­vices are pend­ing.


For­mer Univer­sity of Hous­ton bas­ket­ball coach Guy V. Lewis looks out into the arena as he ar­rives for a press event at Hofheinz Pav­il­ion, in Hous­ton in 2013.

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