HOUSTON — For years, Nolan Richardson would hop into his car in El Paso, Texas, and drive to wherever Houston basketball Coach Guy Lewis was speaking.
Richardson, a longtime high school coach at El Paso Bowie, listened to Lewis for nearly 20 years. Each time, he came away impressed.
"When I was younger, any time he was at a clinic I found a way to get there," said Richardson, first-year head coach at Arkansas.
Lewis announced Tuesday that he will retire as Houston's coach at the end of this season, his 30th year at the school. He has guided the Cougars to a 586-272 record, including five trips to the Final Four.
Richardson thinks the clinics won't be the same without Lewis.
"At those clinics, a lot of coaches would tell you how they developed a player," said Richardson, who guided Western Texas Junior College to a national championship in 1980. "He (Lewis) never took credit for developing anyone. I admire that. People like Elvin Hayes and Akeem (Olajuwon), you know he had a lot to do with their development. But he never took the credit."
Some will remember Lewis for his failure to win the national championship. In 1983, his team was ranked No. 1 in the nation entering the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament but was upset by North Carolina State in the title game, sparking criticism of Lewis' loose coaching style.
"Growing up in Texas and following Houston, I think Guy Lewis is one of the best coaches ever," Richardson said. "People think he should have won the national championship. There are a lot of coaches who would have liked to have gone to five Final Fours.
"What I was most impressed with was that he never overcoached his players. A lot of coaches overcoach. He had good players and he let them play."
Texas A&M Coach Shelby Metcalf, whose team lost to the Cougars Wednesday night here, also is a big Lewis fan.
"He is one of the people in this game who really is a true gentleman," Metcalf said. "His program has been a tremendous boost to this conference. He really moved the Southwest Conference along when we voted them in (Houston joined the league in 1976). Houston basketball brought the conference into prominence and Lewis is synonymous with the UH program."
The leading candidates to succeed Lewis are Lamar's Pat Foster and Houston assistant Donnie Schverak, a former Cougars player who has been on the coaching staff 17 years. Another name to surface is that of Western Illinois Coach Jack Margenthaler, a former Houston player.
Foster refused to comment on the Houston job. He has received an endorsement from Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton, his boss at Arkansas for eight seasons.
Richardson, whose Tulsa team lost to Lewis in the 1982 NCAA Tournament, thinks Lewis will be a tough act to follow.
"He has done more for basketball in Texas than anyone I know," Richardson said. "Don Haskins (University of Texas El Paso head coach) won a national championship, but Houston always has been a power. They were the program."