Guy V. Lewis: Did He Quit UH Because Of Refs Or An NCAA Investigation?
Last week's cover story in the Houston Press, "Resurrecting Phi Slama Jama," focuses on the University of Houston basketball team's ups and downs since legendary coach Guy V. Lewis left the school.
And this week, we heard from a couple more people who know quite a bit about Cougar basketball.
The first: Guy V's wife, Dena Lewis, who sent us a short letter about the story. From her letter:
One thing needs to be set straight on whether Guy V was forced out or resigned. Guy was on the first year of a four-year contract. The AD at the time was Tom Ford and he begged Guy V not to resign.
Ford resigned about six months after Lewis, literally bolting in the middle of the night, while the university was dealing with a NCAA investigation and the athletics department was operating on a multimillion-dollar deficit.
Bobby Risinger, an associate athletics director at the University of Houston from 1985 to 1995, told Hair Balls that the university learned about Ford's departure from the Houston Post.
"He made it to about Sealy before he decided to stop and call a beat writer from the Post and tell him he was heading back to Arizona," Risinger tells Hair Balls. "We picked up the paper the next day and said, 'Did anyone know we don't have an athletic director anymore?'"
But Dena Lewis tells Hair Balls that all that turmoil wasn't the breaking point for Guy V. It was the referees, she says, specifically the referees during a game against Texas Tech.
"He was really upset with one referee and told him, 'I'll go to my grave knowing you changed your call.' He just go so disgusted," Dena Lewis tells Hair Balls. "He called me after that game and said, 'I'm quitting. I'm getting out.'"
Lewis adds, "He said before that he was going to resign, but I never believed him. I didn't believe him that time, either, but he followed through with it. It was just too much."
Still, she knows some people wanted Guy V gone.
"These were people I didn't like, who I knew were against him," Lewis says. "Guy would say, 'But I like them.' I think Guy liked everyone."
Risinger originally contacted us, in part, to defend Pat Foster, the coach who replaced Lewis. Risinger said that the investigations did, in fact, take a toll on Lewis and played some part in his resignation.
The NCAA never leveled any heavy sanctions against Lewis or the basketball program, but did rule that a player was ineligible because of a recruiting violation by an assistant coach.
The university, however, conducted its own investigation and banned that assistant from recruiting and took away two scholarships from the basketball program.
Risinger emphasizes that he was and remains a Guy V fan, and he even sent a letter to the NCAA campaigning for Lewis's induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. (Lewis made it in in 2007.)
But Risinger is also a big fan of Foster, who he calls a "spectacular defensive coach," and believes that Foster did about as good as anyone who followed that Lewis. Furthermore, Risinger believes that Lewis left the team without the type of talent that could repeat Phi Slama Jama-type performances.
"[Foster] didn't have the players to run up and down the floor," Risinger says. "A lot of boosters got down on him and said, 'This team just isn't as fun as Phi Slama Jama.'"
He adds, "You can never let the program get bare. We didn't really protect ourselves on the backside."