Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon will join fellow Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes in Springfield, Mass. on Sept. 8 to help honor their former coach at the University of Houston, Guy Lewis, when he is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame officials and the Lewis family are hopeful Hall of Fame guard Clyde Drexer, a former teammate of Olajuwon at UH and the NBA, will be able to take part in the ceremony as well.
Hayes made the Associated Press All-America team for Lewis in the 1960s, while Olajuwon and Drexler did as well in the 1980s as part of the famed UH teams known as Phi Slama Jama.
"Obviously, it's very meaningful to have Hakeem be a part of this," said John Doleva, president and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.
"I know he wanted to be, and his schedule now allows him to be, and it's going to be so meaningful for coach as well. I know they are both honored to be in each other's presence. There's a deep respect for the coach by all of his former players and it's great to see them coming back to Springfield to honor him and take his rightful place finally as a Hall of Famer."
Doleva hopes Drexler will also be able to make it to Springfield.
"There is a chance," Doleva said. "I think he's trying to change his schedule to allow that."
Hayes, who said three weeks ago he would make the trip, and Olajuwon will act as "presenters" for Lewis during the induction ceremony. Drexler will too if he is able to fit the event into his schedule.
Lewis' daughter said it means a great deal to her family that Olajuwon will be on hand.
"It means everything," Sherry Lewis said. ""We are so gratified that he would honor my dad in this way, and we've always wanted him to be there, as we would like to see Clyde and of course Elvin."
Each inductee is normally limited to one presenter, but Doleva acknowledged it is a rule the Hall of Fame will bend depending on the circumstances.
"It's a rule, but it's not something that we steadfastily enforce when there's a special situation as there is with coach," Doleva said.
"Longevity and the number of players he's put in the NBA and their relationship. There is precedence of having two and sometimes three people up there. So while we ask folks to focus on maybe one individual to bring them into the class, if you're a successful basketball coach that's produced so many basketball Hall of Famers, you probably want to go outside the rules a little bit."
Each inductee gets three minutes to speak and since Lewis is not able to do that, Hayes has agreed to handle it for his former coach.
"They are going to sit together as I understand," Doleva said. "Elvin will speak on behalf of coach and coach will be there on the dais and that will be the speech that coach will give, and I'm sure given the longevity of their relationship and friendship, everything that coach wants to say is going to be said through Elvin and it's going to be very heartfelt and very moving.
Sherry Lewis could not agree more.
"There will not be a dry eye in the house from the U of H people," Sherry Lewis said.
Hayes is thrilled to be speaking on behalf of Coach Lewis.
"Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the 'I Have a Dream speech' in Washington D.C. with Martin Luther King," Hayes said. "I was a junior in high school and I'm sitting there in high school and I remember dreaming that dream, saying 'I hope I get this dream. I hope my life changes.'
"In 1964 Coach Guy V. Lewis signed me to a scholarship and gave me that dream Dr. King was speaking about the year before when I was in the 11th grade. So when I think of Guy V. Lewis and what he has meant to my life and the opportunity he gave me when I had a dream, he made that dream come true for me."
Sherry Lewis looks forward to hearing Hayes speak on behalf of her father.
"I've known Elvin since I was 12," Sherry Lewis said. "Our friendship has lasted all the way until now with my dad and Elvin, with my family and Elvin, and I'm just so happy that he has been instrumental in getting my father into the Hall of Fame and I'm so happy, really overjoyed that he is going to play such an integral part in the ceremony."
Hayes is happy that he will be joined in the ceremony by Olajuwon, and perhaps Drexler.
"Well, I think that is wonderful, Olajuwon being there, and I'm hoping Clyde also," Hayes said. "Coach mentored and tutored three Hall of Fame players.
"For him to be able to join us (in the Hall of Fame), there's nothing better than having the coach sitting at the head of the table."
Doleva said it will be special to have two, and possibly three members of the Hall of Fame who played college basketball at the University of Houston, on hand to help celebrate this huge day in Coach Lewis' life.
"It just shows the quality of coach," Doleva said. "I know folks in Houston felt it was a long-time coming.
"Cream always rises to the top, and this year certainly Coach Lewis is finally getting his due and it's an exclamation point to have three Hall of Famers that have had tremendous careers be part of his lineage and what he has produced for the game of basketball."
Lewis, 91, won 592 games during his 30-year career at the University of Houston.
He led the Cougars on five trips to the NCAA Final Four, had 27 consecutive winning seasons and was named national coach of the year twice (1968 and 1983).