80s famous team

(Chris) #1

Hi there
Just watched a documentary on Houston bb and Phi Slama Jam when you got to 3 final 4s and one guy on the show said you were the Best team in America
I’m no expert on bb but I see these days Duke NC Kentucky etc are the big teams but not Houston

Were duke and co big teams back in the Jam era? Or were cougars a big team then as duke are today?

How did you manage to recruit such talented players over Duke in the 80s? How come you haven’t won a tourney game since. Is it down to recruiting?

Sorry if these sound silly questions but I’m European not America



My opinion, in reverse order is that it comes down to the head coach knowing how to identify talent. Guy Lewis could do it and our current coach, Kelvin Sampson can do it.

As for Duke, their head coach can do it and has been for so long that now Duke is synonymous with successful basketball. He’s 71 now so I have to wonder what will happen when he retires. I’m 58 years old and growing up it was UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, NC, and Notre Dame in the early to mid 70’s. When coach Woodson at UCLA retired that program went down pretty fast as I recall.

Houston was always around and sometimes pretty good at that time, but growing up in Ohio, I didn’t hear much about them until tournament time. Then I moved to Houston for work in 1980 and enrolled in graduate school. Phi Slamma Jamma happened. Those teams were the apex of UH basketball until now. The Elvin Hayes teams were right there too, but I’m too young to remember that.

Hopefully, CKS will stick around for a few more years, he’ll turn 63 in October, and get UH established as a perennial tournament team. If he stays with us until he’s 70, I think we’ll be on our way. Then, we just need to hire someone to replace him who knows talent and how to develop it.

(Brad) #3

Your interest in Phi Slama Jama is only rivaled by my interest in you. Who are you? Where are you from? Why did you choose CoogFans.com as the source of these questions?

To answer your questions, Imma let you finish, but Phi Slama Jama was one of the greatest of all time…the greatest of all time.

(Chris) #4

I’m just a guy from England who loves American sports. I know your football team from its spread offense and production of QBs in the AAC. Found the website just by googling Houston cougar basketball forum


Chris…you must come visit Houston! The food is awesome, the people are nice and there’s always something going on.

But do not come in the heat of summer…unless you like hurricanes, mosquitos and humidity. :grinning:

(Brad) #6

Howdy Mate.

I’ll let the old timers comment, I was 6 years old in 1984. Some programs are programs no matter who the coach is (due partly because of fan/admin approach, and/or conference affiliation), others are programs simply because of the coach.

UH is a relatively young school and was (at times by some still is) considered a inferior school with inferior people. We have also shown splashes of potential and the “good ol’ boys” have used politics to keep us from certain/significant funding AND out of prestigious conference affiliations.

UH has had one Hall of Fame caliber coach in basketball, Guy V. Lewis. We have a Hall of Fame caliber coach in Kelvin Sampson. The other coaches we had in between were unfortunate tenures.

Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Indiana (and Kansas) are schools where basketball is life. Phi Slama Jama, in my opinion would not have occurred. PSJ went against traditional basketball at the time and would have not tolerated a style like that.

(Charles) #7

Talent is talent and in my opinion PSJ would have been big anywhere. However, Texas being Texas, basketball has never drawn the interest that football has (again, imo because of the race of people who play it). It just doesn’t appeal to the good ole boys with all dat “awl” money. I lived in North Carolina and the passion that is there for basketball was shocking, especially to someone who grew up in Texas.

(Butch) #8

Just before PSJ came along Cougar basketball had already started a downhill fall. We had some really good teams in the '70s but then Texas and the Aggies along with Baylor and Arkansas and others started competing for the local talent market.
Our early '70s teams were loaded with talent…Dwight Jones, Dwight Davis, Lou Dunbar, Maurice Presley, but under performed when it came to playoff time.
From the mid '70s the talent began to cave in, except for Otis Birdsong, who we got out of Winterhaven, Florida.
He was truly a great player, but frankly we had little to go with him and our claim to fame was making it to the NIT finals one year.
IMO coach Lewis saved his job and the program by bringing in a guy named Rob Williams, probably the best pure point guard to ever come out of Houston. Recruiting Rob was a dirty deal, but pales in comparison to what kids ask for today.
With Williams intact, we signed a prep all star in Michael Young, who brought with him a friend named Clyde Drexler, a little recruited forward from Houston Sterling who turned out to be a future Hall of Famer. Drexler had a standing offer from Sam Houston State and later got one from Texas Tech when the Raiders heard we were recruiting him.
Lewis also brought in his bruiser in the middle in Larry Micheaux and things really fell into place when a little known guy from Nigeria fell into our laps…Olajuwon was a raw talent when he got here, but picked up the game pretty quickly.
Back in those days Duke, Carolina, UCLA, the perennial powers, continued to bring in the stud classes, the blue chippers. Guy V. who had a great eye for talent, brought in special talent to Houston and was able to mix them all together and have a great team for four years. Ironically, the team that upset us in '83, North Carolina State, had more recruited blue chippers than Houston did.
That said, after that everyone in the world started to notice Houston city talent, including the Kentucky’s, UCLA’s, Dukes, etc. and after losing a couple of elite recruits like Tito Horford and the Williams kid to LSU, things began to fall apart and coach Lewis was basically forced to retire.
UH, under Sampson, can be a major force in hoops if A) we recruit top players, B) Sampson stays with us a few more years…B) we get an all needed boost from our weak fan base, both on and off the court…

(Chris) #9


(Butch) #10

Of course you had to bring race into the conversation…that’s funny because most of our fans were white when we had the really good teams. Most of those whites have since gotten very old, or no longer live in the city limits. When I was going to UH in the late '60’s Guy never hesitated to play black players, and even white people from other colleges nearby came to see the Big E…but yeah, make this all about race…


This is ridiculous.

(PMM) #12

Funny observation…been to many football games in Texas ?

(Charles) #13

Different game, different perception.


Read this book to get a good History of UH Basketball and Football:

Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense, and the Game of the Century

(Patrick) #15

I don’t think it has anything to do with the racial makeups of the teams, think it has more to do with the weather. Basketball was a northeast sport developed because they needed to do something when the snow prohibited playing outside. Naismith created the game in a gym with peach baskets and it picked up from there. As the popularity increased, more northern schools ended up picking it up and running with it during their winter months.

In the south, with the warmer weather, football and baseball dominated. Basketball was looked at as just a sport to keep in shape during the football offseason and before baseball started and wasn’t taken as seriously in this region. With the smaller rosters, there weren’t as many parents involved and others focused on the other two sports.


I’ll jump in here to offer up some lessons in ACC history. The perception that Duke has been a national power forever is severely flawed. They have had a 30 year run since roughly '84 where they have been that but the 60’s and 70’s were spotty. Duke hired Vic Bubbas off of Coach Case’s staff at State and he produced a Final Four appearance in '62 or '63 iirc. Other than that, Bill Foster had the Gminski, Spanarkel team in '77 or '78 that made a run in the tournament after having a good but certainly not great or dominant regular season. Coach K, struggled in his first three seasons at Duke to the point that he was almost canned. Mark Alarie, Jay Bilas, and Johnny Dawkins turned the program around and made the tournament in '84.

Frank McGuire was hired in Chapel Hill to beat Everett Case because State had dominated the ACC and its forerunner the Southern Conference, since it was formed. He got the program elevated and won a NC in '57. Then the point shaving scandal hit the Big Four. McGuire took off for the NBA to avoid taking the punishment doled out and the Cheaters hired Dean Smith. He built the UNC-CHeat program, instituted the fake classes system to stay competitive when Coach K won a couple of championships and then retired.

Through the early part of Coach Lewis’ time at UH college basketball was dominated by the teams and media in the northeast along with UCLA and the teams from the ACC. How he did what he did in an area that had no basketball tradition says a lot to me about his passion for the game and his persistence. I know the '83 championship is the reason a lot of people think he was kept out of the HOF way longer than he should have been. I think it was just the dearth of decent CBB in this region in the 60’s other than UH. I was aghast at the lack of interest in CBB when I moved to Houston in 1984. Hopefully Coach Sampson can turn that around.

(Ben) #17

In the 60’s and 70’s, I worked for a company that had 30 plus tickets for football, given complementary to customers. Our salesmen were supposed to take their customers to the games (we had Rice tickets, too). We, employees who worked in the office, frequently received “extras” that the sales force could not give away. The salesmen did not want to go to the games themselves (they were either Texas or TAM fans) because UH had minorities playing. They would rather drive to College Station or Austin to watch teams devoid of minorities. True fact. This was football and I feel this same racism permeated the Houston market for many years. This opinion is drawn from my personal experiences. Some of the UH attendance problems have been affected by racism, believe it or not.

(Nick K) #18

it’s true, it’s the same thing that generated the cougar high moniker from texas aggies, the outlaw school rep and the obviously racist term coogroes, which you see from time to time still on aggie and tech boards.
given that bob bullock and ann richards were old school southern democrats, my bet is that the resentment over early integration at UH also played a part in our exclusion from the big 12.

(Brad) #19

Our attendance woes have more to do with our apathetic fan base and city in general. The Rockets tv ratings are down significantly this year when they are having one of their best seasons in franchise history. I’m not saying race was not a factor in the story of UH athletics, but it’s not the only story.

Don’t forget SMU when referring to the “coogro” term.

“Cougar High” has nothing to do with race/ethnicity. I has to with low admission standards and the fact that we started at a high school.

(Patrick) #20

I will agree that UH has had a racially-tinged bias when it comes to some in the state of Texas supporting us. There still exists a resentment from some in Texas that we were the first big school in Texas to integrate thereby “forcing” others to do the same.