University of Houston Welcomes Back Guy V. Lewis

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University of Houston Athletic Department
UH is honoring Guy V. Lewis on Wednesday. Will you be there?
I was at the last game Guy V. Lewis coached inside Hofheinz Pavilion. A Cougar victory in overtime of 15th-ranked TCU. It was my sophomore year at UH, March 1, 1986. I don't remember much about the game, not much more than shouting "Guy V., Guy V." a lot and banging on the seats. I attended the game with a group of friends, all UH students, and we sat in the sparsely attended student section.

Hofheinz was sparsely attended that season, attendance averaging 4,928 for that season despite UH hosting multiple big name and highly ranked schools. But the Cougars struggled mightily that season, just two years removed from the championship loss to Georgetown, and the UH faithful were as UH faithful always are, caring only for teams that win, not teams that finish a season at 14-14. Attendance had been moderately better the season before, the Cougars drawing an average of 5,698 fans despite the team coming off it's third straight Final Four appearance.

This season's Cougars are struggling mightily. The team's highpoint this season has been a New Year's Eve upset over the ranked UConn Huskies in a game attended by almost nobody. UH has lost its last four road games by an average of 24.5 points, including a 93-70 loss at Rutgers on Saturday and a 80-43 loss at UConn last Thursday. The team's not good. The play on the court looks uninspired.

UH seeks a return to its glory days on Wednesday when it hosts defending champs and conference rival Louisville. The return to glory days probably won't come from the actual game, though UH does play much better at home than on the road. But it'll come about on this night that the school is honoring Guy V. Lewis, the greatest coach in school history and recent inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame. And though the alumni like to speak fondly of Coach Lewis, the odds of many of them turning out on Wednesday is slight, very slight.

I missed the glory days of UH athletics. The Cougars made a the Cotton Bowl in my freshman year, losing to Boston College. Coach Lewis' team made the NIT that year, losing in the first round to Lamar just one year after having lost to Georgetown. The football team did just about nothing for the rest of my tenure, going 4-7 and 1-10 in Coach Yeoman's last two years. The basketball team didn't fall off as much. Pat Foster took over for Coach Lewis and made the NCAA Tourney and NIT before I graduated. But it seemed that nobody much cared.

And that's the thing. Nobody cared about UH sports when I was a student. And nobody cares now. For the most part, nobody's ever cared, except for maybe when the team wins. But not always. The 1983-84 Coogs averaged 9,697 fans per game. That's the only time, THE ONLY TIME, that UH has ever averaged more than 9,000 fans a game for a season. And that came in year three of UH's Final Four run. The season before Hofheinz's average attendance was under 8,000 fans. The year before, the average was 6,780.

This was the Phi Slama Jama-era. The team was winning lots and lots of game. Few of the games were on television. Guy V. Lewis was scheduling ranked opponents. And nobody gave a damn. It's easy to see why nobody gives a damn now, but even then, nobody cared.

I love college basketball. I loved it then, I loved it now. I was there for just about every game while I was a student. My friends were there, but there weren't many other students. And there weren't many other alumni, either. The Phi Slama Jama team was gone, but the team still won games, still went to post-season tournaments during my time as a student, but these people who like to talk about how Hofheinz is packed when the team wins obviously weren't around during Coach Lewis' tenure just like they were never around for Pat Foster or Alvin Brooks or Clyde Drexler or Ray McCallum or Tom Penders or James Dickey.

It's nice that Coach Lewis is being honored on Wednesday night. And as a person who was actually in attendance for his last game coached at Hofheinz, it feels just a tad more special to think that I'll be there on Wednesday night though since I'll be on press row, I won't be shouting "Guy V., Guy V." this time out. I wish Coach Lewis was able to still go out and coach a team and take UH back to the 1980s when the Cougars were on top because I never got to see the Cougars play when they were on top. But spare me the talk about how UH fans turn out for winning teams like the Guy V. Lewis UH teams because it wasn't true then, and it's not true now.


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