Legendary Houston Cougar basketball coach Guy V. Lewis has been selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame. It is a very well-deserved honor for one of the finest basketball coaches ever involved with the game. It is also an honor that should have been bestowed long, long ago.
Fans of the Cougars, fans of Coach Lewis, fans of basketball should be thankful that the voters have granted this honor. But fans should also question why this took such a long time. They should ask why the Hall of Fame so long chose to ignore Coach Lewis? And along with questioning the voters and the Hall, they should be pissed, righteously pissed, that this move took so long to happen.
It's been said in the past that Guy V. Lewis was nothing more than a regional candidate without national name recognition. Less benighted souls have stated that Coach Lewis wasn't worthy of induction because he never won a national title. And others have stated that he wasn't really a good coach, that he just rolled the balls out onto the court and let the players play basketball.
It's true that Lewis and his Cougars never won the NCAA Championship. But he coached his teams to the Final Four five times. That is five more Final Fours than John Chaney ever coached a team to, but Chaney was inducted into the Hall of Fame several years ago. And being a lousy coach didn't prevent Dick Vitale from being inducted several years ago as a contributor.
And don't get his former players started on the insults regarding Lewis's coaching ability.
"I couldn't answer the question of what's the reason [he's not in] because his record speaks for itself," Elvin Hayes told Hair Balls last year. "He's a great coach. He has three players in the Hall of Fame. There's no reason that he should not be in the Hall of Fame because he coached us, he trained us and developed us into the players that we became. He's one of the greatest coaches in the country, going into the Final Four, going undefeated during the regular season, all of the things that all the other coaches in there have done, and some who haven't done. So I don't know. It's hard to explain."
And no person did more to grow the game of college basketball in the national consciousness than Guy V. Lewis. He was the mastermind behind the so-called Game of the Century featuring UCLA and UH in the Houston Astrodome. Lewis convinced the Bruins, then at the top of the college basketball scene, to play the game. It was Lewis who set up the deal to have the game, a mid-season game, televised nationally. Games in domes and midseason games on national television simply weren't done at that time.
Perhaps his greatest contribution to the game came with the integration of the sport. Don Haskins gets most of the credit for this, perhaps because of his Texas Western team (now UTEP) defeating Kentucky for the national title in 1966. But the first major Southern basketball program to be integrated was Guy V. Lewis's University of Houston program.
"Guy Lewis was a revolutionary person, by integrating the University of Houston, and all of the things that he accomplished during his days at the University of Houston," Hayes said. "He just was a tremendous guy. Whatever could happen in the game of basketball -- I think why we have three professional teams in the state of Texas, and all three have won championships -- are really because of what Guy Lewis did in the '60s."
Yet for all of this, it took years for Lewis to be selected for the Hall of Fame. He didn't bribe his way in like Phil Knight. He didn't make a clown of himself on TV like Dick Vitale. He recruited raw, talented players and turned them into dominating players who are now known as some of the greatest ever to play basketball. He never won a title, but neither did lots of coaches in the Hall of Fame, and he grew the game, innovated the game, something that past inductees like Van Chancellor never accomplished.
Congratulations to Coach Lewis. It is a well-deserve honor that is long past overdue. The man did more to make college basketball into what is today, a national television spectacle played in domed stadiums, than any coach before or sense. The crime isn't that he isn't more well known by the general basketball public; the crime is that those who should know better, the voters, either didn't know better or else deliberately chose to ignore him in favor of clowns like Vitale and Knight.
But hopefully now, with this honor, the rest of the basketball masses will finally recognize the greatness of Guy V. Lewis. It's long past overdue.
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