"Coach had this vision," Hayes said, "a vision for the game of basketball."
Lewis was also one of the first coaches in the South to embrace racial integration in the 1960s. He made Hayes and Don Chaney the first black players to suit up for Houston two years before Texas Western coach Don Haskins beat Kentucky with an all-black starting lineup in the famous 1966 NCAA championship game.
Hayes and Chaney became cornerstones for Lewis' first two Final Four teams, in 1967 and '68.
"There were no schools in the South, basically, recruiting black athletes," Hayes said. "He paved the way in basketball. You watch LSU, Kentucky, Alabama now, they have all these great black athletes. These schools weren't even looking at them back then."
Hall of Fame bylaws have kept Lewis off the ballot since 2007.
The Springfield, Mass., hall says Lewis was last nominated in 1999. Once nominated, candidates must earn a majority vote in one of two screening committees. If successful, a candidate's credentials are then advanced to a 24-member Honors Committee, where the candidate must receive at least 18 votes to be approved for enshrinement.
If a candidate goes three straight years without passing through one of the initial screening committees, the candidate becomes ineligible for induction for the next five years. The hall says Lewis did not receive enough voter support between 2005-07 and was subsequently dropped from future ballots.
Lewis' five years are up, and he'll be eligible for induction into the class of 2013.
"Guy Lewis is the Dean Smith of the South, and if you don't put him in, that's a great disservice to anyone who's ever picked up a basketball in the South," said Drexler, who was inducted in 2004.
Lewis did earn induction into the newer College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, the year after it was established in Kansas City, Mo.
Nantz credits Lewis for giving him his start in television by letting the then-junior host the coach's weekly show in Houston in the late 1970s. Nearly four decades later, he fears that the adamant support to get Lewis into the hall may be working against his candidacy.
"We are all outraged, but sometimes, I think it takes away from people saying, 'He did this, he accomplished this, he did that,'" Nantz said. "The sentiment is so strong that, I think we're pushing for him so hard, that we talk about what he didn't get, as opposed to what he did get."
Michael Young, a forward on the '83 squad and now the program's director of basketball operations, said he believes the exclusion has nagged at Lewis over the years.
"If you know Coach Lewis, you would look at him and if you didn't know him, you would never know what he was thinking," Young said. "His players could tell, though, that this was wearing on him and wearing on him. I think that's a terrible thing."
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