HOUSTON - Hall of Fame basketball coach Guy V. Lewis passed away on Thursday at a nursing home in Kyle, Texas at the age of 93.
Lewis was the basketball coach at the University of Houston from 1956-1986, leading the Cougars to the Final Four in 1967, 1968, 1982, 1983 and 1984.
He was the architect of the great UH teams in the early 80s known as Phi Slama Jama.
Dr. Ken Ciolli, who played for Lewis from 1975-1979, has remained in close contact with the family.
“I knew it was coming,” Ciolli said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “It’s kind of a blessing (with) all the medical problems that he had developed in the last few months.
“I was kind of sad, but happy he’s now at rest.”
Hall of Fame guard Clyde Drexler played for Lewis at UH from 1980-1983.
“Just a great man,” Drexler said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. “ He meant so much to so many people. He helped changed the lives of many people.
"Everybody loved Guy Lewis. He was a beacon of leadership, a beacon of light, just a great man"
And Drexler has said many times and again on Thursday, Lewis was an outstanding leader on the basketball court.
“Phenomenal coach, one of the greatest of all time,” Drexler said. “He was a no-nonsense coach with a no-nonsense approach.
Those who played for Lewis point out he was more than just a basketball coach, he was a pioneer, in paving the way for African-American athletes to play college basketball at schools like the University of Houston.
“My first thought was what a great man, breaking the color barrier for the black athlete in the south,” said Dr. Ciolli.
“He was way ahead of his time in terms of inclusion and treating everyone in the way that they liked to be treated at a time when it wasn’t too popular to do that,” Drexler said.”
Lewis recruited Hall of Fame center Elvin Hayes out of Rayville, La.
Before meeting Lewis Hayes told FOX 26 Sports he never really thought he would leave his hometown.
"All the awards I've received, Hall of Fame, NBA Championships, NBA 50 Greatest, Guy Lewis is a part of all of that," Hayes said.
"I don't think he realized the accomplishments which he achieved by opening the doors to black athletes.
"Every day that I'm here Guy Lewis is still living in my life, and in so many other players lives, he is really still living."