Players gather in support of Houston’s Guy Lewis

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HOUSTON (AP) - Players from each of the five Final Four teams of former Houston coach Guy V. Lewis gathered Friday to honor the coach and share a unified message.

Elvin Hayes to Clyde Drexler are among those outraged that the 89-year-old, who won 592 games with the Cougars, has not been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

“I think it’s shameful,” Hayes said. “We have three players in the Hall of Fame, three players on the NBA 50 greatest team, five Final Fours and how can you tell me that coach is not one of the greatest coaches and one of the greatest minds in basketball? It’s a travesty.”

Lewis has been confined to a wheelchair and has had trouble speaking since suffering a stroke in 2002. But the coach smiled broadly and chuckled often during the hour-long program.

“Well I tell you it’s a big, big, big thing to me,” he said before the program began.

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

Lewis, who coach at Houston from 1956-86, took a Hayes-led team to two Final Fours in the late ‘60s and Drexler and Phi Slama Jama to three in a row from 1982-84.

His teams made the finals two times but never won it all.

Drexler can’t understand why Lewis hasn’t been given the nod.

“There’s no plausible explanation for him not being there,” Drexler said. “I think as much as any other coach in the history of college basketball coach Lewis deserves to be there. He’s as good as John Wooden. He’s as good as Dean Smith.”

It wasn’t just basketball players who joined Lewis on the Houston campus Friday. Former Cougar track star and Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis also joined the party.

“I feel a sense of guilt that he’s not in,” Lewis said. “I think it’s our fault. Why are we not making the case for our coach?”

Older players such as Hayes feel Lewis should be included as much for what he did in leading the integration of basketball in the South as for his wins.

“The career which I had in the NBA and throughout my college career was due to Guy Lewis, because he brought me here and molded me,” Hayes said. “He prepared me.”

Lewis was the man who had the idea for No. 2 Houston to play Lew Alcindor and top-ranked UCLA in the Astrodome in 1968 in what was known as the “Game of the Century.” Hayes and Houston beat the Bruins 71-69 in the first college basketball game played in a dome and first regular-season game broadcast nationwide.

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