Guy V. Lewis
Guy V.  Lewis

Arp, Texas

High School:

Last College:
Houston '47

Head Coach (1956-86)


Career Record:

The Career and Legacy of Coach Guy V Lewis

Coach Guy V. Lewis through the Years

• The Father of Phi Slama Jama
• Architect of the Game of the Century
• Pioneer in the integration of college basketball in the South

Guy Vernon Lewis remains one of the most influential coaches in the history of the University of Houston Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Born March 19, 1922, in Arp, Texas, Lewis led the Cougar program to unprecedented success for 30 years from 1956 to 1986.

By the time that Lewis ended his career in the spring of 1986 after 30 seasons, he had led the Cougars to 592 of the 727 wins that the Cougars had earned until that point. However, he had seen a whopping 662 of those all-time wins as a student-athlete, assistant coach and head coach.

However, Lewis' impact on the game of basketball extends far beyond his numbers on the court. In the early 1960s, he successfully recruited and welcomed Houston legends Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney as the basketball program's first African-American student-athletes. Not only were Hayes and Chaney two of the earliest African-American student-athletes at the University, they were two of the first African players in the region.

Full Name Guy Vernon Lewis
Born March 19, 1922
Hometown Arp, Texas
Education Houston • 1947
Bachelor's in education
Family Wife: The former Dena Nelson
Children: Sherry, Vern and Terry
Year School, Position
1956-86 Houston, head coach
1953-56 Houston, assistant coach
Year Honors
1983, 1968 National Coach of the Year
1983, 1968 USBWA District VI Coach of the Year
1984, 1983 Southwest Conference Coach of the Year
1983, 1982
1977, 1968
Texas Coach of the Year

592-279 overall record
134-98 conference record
Five NCAA Final Four appearances
14 NCAA Tournament berths
Four SWC Tournament titles
Two SWC championships
Two National Players of the Year
15 All-Americans
26 1,000-point scorers
Two NBA No. 1 overall draft picks
11 NBA Draft First-Round picks
29 NBA Draft selections
Three 30-win seasons, 14 20-win seasons

2007 College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
2003 Doctor of Humanities (UH)
2003 Special Proclamantion (Texas Legislature)
2002 Texas Basketball Lifetime Achievement
Player Player
Greg Anderson Otis Birdsong
Don Chaney Dwight Davis
Clyde Drexler Elvin Hayes
Dwight Jones Ted Luckenbill
Larry Micheaux Hakeem Olajuwon
Gary Phillips George Reynolds
Rob Williams Rickie Winslow
Michael Young
Years Team (Years)
1946-47 Houston
Year Honors
1946-47 Co-captain of first two UH teams
1946-47 Two-Time All-Lone Star Conference
First Team honoree
1946-47 Two NAIB Tournament berths
2007 Named one of Top 75 players in
Lone Star Conference history

In 1968, Lewis was the architect of the legendary Game of the Century between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Houston. The regular-season game drew more than 52,000 fans inside the Houston Astrodome and was watched by millions more nationwide.

This monumental event that Lewis guided demonstrated the nationwide (and soon-to-be) worldwide popularity of college basketball on television and in large arenas. It also set the stage for the worldwide hysteria that college basketball fans love and enjoy in March Madness annually

Assembling a 592-279 record in 30 seasons, Lewis did just about everything a collegiate head coach could do. He led the Cougars to the NCAA Final Four on five occasions, including three straight from 1982 to 1984. In the last two years of that streak, he guided Houston to National Championship Game berths.

The Cougars competed in 14 NCAA Tournaments during his tenure and earned six Southwest Conference and SWC Classic championships. He coached 15 student-athletes who earned All-America honors, including National Players of the Year Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon, and had 26 of his players score at least 1,000 points in the Scarlet and White.

With success like that, it was easy to see how he was two-time National Coach of the Year (1983, 1968), a two-time SWC Coach of the Year (1984, 1983) and a four-time Texas Coach of the Year (1983, 1982, 1977, 1968).

Lewis' influence continued at the professional level. Nearly 30 of his Cougars were taken in the NBA Draft with 11 First-Round selections, including No. 1 overall picks Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes.

In 1997, Hayes, Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were named part of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, making Houston one of only three schools who could boast of three members on that list.

Lewis' Cougars also made their marks on the international level. Four players represented the United States during the Olympic Games, including Ken Spain (1968), Dwight Jones (1972), Clyde Drexler (1992 Dream Team) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1996).

He was voted into UH's elite Athletics Hall of Honor as a student-athlete in 1971 and again received that honor for his coaching in 1998. Lewis remains the only figure in Houston Athletics history to be enshrined as both a student-athlete and a coach.

He was named a distinguished UH alumnus in 1973 by the Alumni Federation and was picked the UH College of Education's Alumnus of the Year in 1983. In 1995, the playing surface inside Hofheinz Pavilion was renamed Guy V. Lewis Court in his honor.

Lewis was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

More than his dedication, he also had pure joy for the game. He traveled the world to spread the world of basketball and to teach it to countries such as China, Germany, Spain, England, Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Brazil, and Chile, just to name a few. However, there was nothing like Houston basketball for Lewis.

Shortly after his graduation in 1947, Lewis returned to Houston to be assistant coach for Houston's first head basketball coach, Alden Pasche. Following three seasons as assistant coach, Lewis took over the head coaching position when Pasche retired after winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship.

Off to a slow start at first, the Cougars struggled against powerhouses like Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson and Bradley's Chet Walker. However in 1959-60, the Cougars enjoyed a winning record and had repeated winning seasons with Lewis every year following.

During Lewis' career after 1960, the Cougars had 14 seasons of 20 or more wins. They went 31-2 in 1967-68 with the two losses during the NCAA Final Four at Los Angeles.

They again finished with 31 wins in the 1982-83 season, making it to the NCAA Championship game for the first time and earned a No. 1 ranking for the first time after that season under Lewis. During the 1984-85 season, the Cougars returned to the National Championship game, setting a school record with a 32-5 season.

When asked about his most excited success, Lewis' answer may seem surprising. "The greatest thrill of my career was that UCLA game in the Astrodome on January 20, 1968 before 52,693 fans in the Game of the Century. Playing that game, winning it was a great, great thrill."

Lewis's influence extends beyond Houston to the development of college basketball. Remarkably, that one game had more significance than any before it.

"There's no doubt that game helped the popularity of college basketball. Never before had a regular season game been planned for national television... Excerpts from games, and playoffs yes, but never a planned regular season game."

In 1964, Lewis signed two of the first three African-American student-athletes in school history. Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney joined Lewis as pioneers in Cougar Basketball history and helped lay the foundation for the program's overwhelming success in the 1980s and beyond.

Lewis' story at the University of Houston began in 1946 with the inaugural season of basketball and all athletics. Lewis, along with 10 of the 11 other Cougars, was a World War II veteran, specifically Army Air Force. Lewis originated at Rice University but eventually found his way home to UH where he led the Cougars in scoring and to a Lone Star Conference title.

Lewis amassed 210 points in 10 league games with a single-game high of 34. A predominant scorer, he never scored fewer than 14 points a game and scored the winning basket with two seconds remaining against Southwestern to lead the Cougars to a 42-40 win.

His second season at UH proved to have as much success as the first. The Cougars finished with a 15-7 overall mark and a second straight Lone Star title. That year, Lewis beat his own single-game record from the previous season with 38 points in Public School Gym against Texas State. Lewis's free throw percentage that season was an outstanding .795 percentage.

Lewis begin his athletic career at Arp High. There, he played on three district championship basketball teams and quarterbacked three football squads.

He and his wife, the former Dena Nelson, married in 1942 and have three children: Sherry, Vern and Terry.

Without the presence of Lewis, the history of the University of Houston would have been drastically different. His tremendous impact here and on the game will be remembered across the nation.

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