Normally at the enshrinement ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, inductees choose one Hall of Famer as their presenter. But sometimes, for those individuals with a particularly unique legacy, the Hall of Fame will allow inductees to bend the rules.
They did just that during the recent induction of coach Guy Lewis, allowing my former college teammate, Clyde Drexler, and I to sponsor the man who propelled us to our own Hall of Fame careers.
It was just another fitting honor for a coach whose legend cannot be defined by conventional measures.
The numbers speak for themselves – 30 years in coaching, 592 wins, five appearances in the Final Four and a two-time national coach of the year. But coach Lewis was so much more than a winner.
First and foremost, coach Lewis was a tremendous motivator. He instilled in his teams a certain mental toughness and demanded that his players gave him all they could. That coaching style helped his teams pull off monumental wins, including a victory over John Wooden and Lew Alcindor’s 1968 UCLA squad in the “Game of the Century,” and also led to his players’ continued success in the NBA. Coach Lewis produced two top overall picks in the NBA Draft (Elvin Hayes in 1968 and myself in 1983) as well as three NBA Hall of Famers (Hayes, myself and Clyde Drexler).
In the process of putting the Houston Cougars on the map, coach Lewis revolutionized the sport of basketball, advocating a fast-paced, exciting game that brought in new fans all over the world. Houston’s 1968 upset over UCLA was played in front of more than 50,000 fans at the Astrodome and was the first NCAA regular season basketball game broadcast on national television. The Phi Slama Jama teams that I was fortunate enough to be a part of will always be remembered for their thrilling style of play.
When people ask me about my favorite memories from my time in college, I immediately think back to the 1983 NCAA championship game. Coach Lewis had us playing very well towards the end of the year, and we had won 26 straight games heading into that matchup with North Carolina State.
I don’t need to remind anyone of how that game ended, and people will never let me forget that our squad may have been the best team to never win a championship. Even though we fell in the final game, coach Lewis had instilled a strong and robust basketball foundation in every member of that team. For that we are all forever grateful.
As unbelievable as it may seem, there was a time in college basketball when the slam dunk was outlawed. Between 1967 and 1976, players were prohibited from dunking. Coach Lewis, however, always advocated for the play, knowing that not only was it a “high percentage shot,” but the exciting nature of the dunk would bring more fans to the game. How right he was.
Guy Lewis was a true visionary, a man ahead of his time. And I’m honored to call him Coach.