Guy V. Lewis II, a Hall of Fame college basketball coach who led the University of Houston’s high-flying Phi Slama Jama teams of the 1980s, died Nov. 26 at a retirement facility in Kyle, Tex. He was 93.
The university announced his death. He had a stroke in 2002, but the cause of death was not disclosed.
Mr. Lewis coached the Cougars for 30 years, beginning in 1956. He guided Houston to back-to-back NCAA title games in 1983 and 1984 but did not win the national championship. In 1983, his team lost to North Carolina State, 54 to 52, on Lorenzo Charles’s last-
second shot, one of the NCAA Tournament’s greatest upsets and most memorable plays.
“It feels awful,” Lewis said after that game. “I’ve never lost a game that didn’t feel that way, but this one was terrible.”
Houston lost to Georgetown University, 84 to 75, in 1984.
Mr. Lewis, who helped lead the racial integration of college basketball in the South by recruiting Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney to Houston in the 1960s, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Known for wearing plaid jackets and for wringing his hands with a red polka-dot towel during games, Mr. Lewis compiled a 592-279 record at Houston, guiding the Cougars to 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1959 to 1985. He was honored as the national coach of the year in 1968 and 1983, and he led Houston to 14 NCAA tournaments and five Final Fours.
He was known for putting together the “Game of the Century” at the Astrodome in 1968 between Houston and the University of California at Los Angeles. It was the first regular-season college basketball game to be broadcast on national television. Houston defeated the Bruins, led by 7-foot-2 center Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-
Jabbar) in front of a crowd of more than 52,000, which, at the time, was the largest to watch an indoor basketball game.
Mr. Lewis had mostly avoided the spotlight since retiring in 1986, but he attended the introductory news conference in December 2007 for Kevin Sumlin, the first black football coach in Houston history.
In 1964, Mr. Lewis signed Houston’s first two black basketball players, Hayes and Chaney, when college teams in Texas and the South were just starting to integrate. The two players led Houston to the school’s first Final Four in 1967 but lost to UCLA in the semifinal game.
“Basketball in the state of Texas and throughout the South is all due to coach Guy V. Lewis,” Hayes, an all-American who later was a star player for the Washington Bullets, said in 2013. “He put everything on the line to step out and integrate his program.”
Along with Hayes, Mr. Lewis also coached all-Americans Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, who went on to stellar careers in the NBA.
Mr. Lewis announced his retirement during the 1985-1986 season, when the Cougars finished 14-14, his first non-winning season since 1958-1959.
For years, former players and CBS announcer Jim Nantz lobbied to have Mr. Lewis named to the Naismith Hall of Fame. He finally received the honor in 2013.
Guy Vernon Lewis II was born March 19, 1922, in the small town of Arp, Tex. He became a flight instructor for the Army Air Forces during World War II and enrolled at the University of Houston in 1946.
As a college basketball player, he averaged 21.1 points per game and led the Cougars to the Lone Star Conference championship. By the early 1950s, he was working as an assistant coach under Alden Pasche and took over when Pasche retired in 1956.
His wife of 72 years, the former Dena Nelson, died in June. A daughter died in 2014. Survivors include two sons.