Former University of Houston Men’s Basketball Head Coach Guy V. Lewis, who led some of the most exciting teams in college basketball history, passed away at a retirement facility Thursday morning. He was 93 years old.
Lewis’s sons, Vern and Terry, and family members were at his side. He was preceded in death by his wife, Dena, and daughter, Sherry. Funeral services are pending and will be announced soon.
Lewis will be honored with a moment of silence prior to Friday’s Sam Hairston Salute to Service Houston Football game vs. No 16/15 Navy inside TDECU Stadium and before Houston’s Men’s Basketball’s game at 7 p.m., Saturday, against ULM inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
As the Cougars’ head coach from 1956 to 1986, Lewis assembled a resume that featured a 592-279 record, five NCAA Final Four appearances, including three straight from 1982 to 1984, six Southwest Conference championships, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 17 postseason berths.
He coached some of the greatest names in Houston and college basketball history, including Hayes, who was the 1968 National Player of the Year, and All-Americans Olajuwon and Drexler in the early 1980s as part of the legendary Phi Slama Jama teams.
In 1996, those three players were named part of the NBA’s Top 50 Greatest Players list, making Lewis and North Carolina’s Dean Smith the only head coaches to work with three players from that illustrious group in college.
Hayes (1990), Drexler (2004) and Olajuwon (2008) capped their careers with enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Lewis joined his three most famous players with his enshrinement in 2013.
Lewis remains one of only seven coaches in NCAA history to compete in nine or more Final Four games with one program (24, John Wooden, UCLA; 19, Mike Krzyzewski, Duke; 19, Dean Smith, North Carolina; 11, Adolph Rupp, Kentucky; 10 Denny Crum, Louisville and 9 Bob Knight, Indiana).
He was recognized as the 1968 National Coach of the Year and received a similar honor from the Associated Press in 1983 when his Phi Slama Jama team posted a 31-3 record and advanced to the first of two NCAA National Championship games.
In 2007, he was honored with induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
“We are deeply saddened today by the passing of Coach Guy V. Lewis, but we are also very thankful for the 93 years Coach Lewis graced this earth with his presence. The impact he had on not only the University of Houston, but the game of basketball and society as a whole, is truly remarkable,” Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “His name will live on, and his legacy will never be forgotten. I know I speak for everyone in the Houston Athletics family when I say we are truly saddened by the loss of this great man and send our thoughts and prayers to the Lewis family.”
“Coach Lewis truly was a giant in this industry. He was not only a Hall of Fame coach but a Hall of Fame man. I have heard so many wonderful stories about Coach Lewis from his former players and the impact he had on all their lives,” current Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I am proud that we get to work at an institution like the University of Houston where Coach Lewis’ name will live for eternity. Coach Lewis had a rich life, on and off the court, and everyone in Houston Basketball offers our condolences to all his family and friends.”
While his coaching career earns the most attention, it is easy to forget that Lewis was a talented student-athlete for the first two Houston teams in school history. He was a co-captain of Houston’s first two teams and was a two-time All-Lone Star Conference First-Team selection.
He remains the only person in Houston Athletics history to be inducted into the Hall of Honor as both a student-athlete and as a coach.
Following his playing career, he served as an assistant for his coach Alden Pasche beginning in 1953 before assuming the head coach position in 1956.
Lewis’ influence continues to be felt off the court to this day. In 1968, he was the architect of the Game of the Century between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Houston.
That game drew more than 52,000 fans inside the Houston Astrodome. It was the first regular-season college basketball game to be televised nationally and demonstrated the nationwide (and soon-to-be) worldwide popularity of college basketball on television and in large arenas.
Early in his career, Lewis played a key role in the integration of college basketball in the South. He successfully recruited and welcomed Hayes and Don Chaney to Houston Basketball as the first African-American student-athletes in program history and some of the earliest African-American players in the region.
Photo Courtesy Houston Athletics