Cotton Fitzsimmons elected to Naismith Basketball HOF as a contributor


Cotton Fitzsimmons is now part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame family.

Recognized posthumously, Fitzsimmons was elected to the 2021 class as a contributor. The two-time NBA Coach of the Year led the Phoenix Suns to five playoff games in his eight seasons as a head coach.

The 2021 groundbreaking ceremony will take place on September 11 in Springfield, Mass.

“I’m very happy,” said Jerry Colangelo, former Suns team owner, president of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “I am very excited for his family. Truly an ambassador for the game. There was no one in the game who did not have great things to say about Cotton. So it is a fair reward for a career dedicated to the game. Thu.”

Suns “Ring of Honor” member Fitzsimmons posted a record 341-208 in Phoenix. His Suns reached the Western Conference Finals in 1989 when Fitzsimmons was named NBA Coach of the Year for the second time and in 1990.

The 1988-89 Suns under Fitzsimmons experienced the third biggest turnaround in NBA history at the time, dropping from 28 wins the previous season to 55.

The 1989-90 team reached the conference final as the fifth-seeded, defeating the seeded Utah and Los Angeles Lakers before losing to Portland.

“My father figure and the very reason I played in the NBA 18 seasons,” said Eddie Johnson, the team’s color commentator who averaged 21.5 points on the 1988- Suns team. 89 and 16.9 points on the 1989-90 team. “Best professional trainer I have ever had. Deserving and finally recognized.”

Fitzsimmons became the sixth NBA coach to achieve 800 wins in the 1991-92 season. At the end of his coaching career, Fitzsimmons was sixth on the NBA’s all-time winning list with a record 832-775 in 21 seasons as an NBA coach.

Fitzsimmons began his NBA coaching career with the Suns as he coached two seasons (1970-72) after Colangelo completed the franchise’s second season (1969-70) coaching the team in place of Red Kerr .

“I made the decision to hire someone because I couldn’t do everything on my own,” Colangelo said. “At the time, I was the coach, the GM (GM). I didn’t have any assistants. I didn’t have a scout. I did everything because it was like that. at the time. “

Colangelo remembers interviewing three candidates, claiming the other two were put in their way.

“They had a bit of blinders on the relationship with the players,” said Colangelo. “They wanted people to adapt to them.”

Fitzsimmons, at 39, was the opposite.

Phoenix Suns head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons watches during a 1989 NBA season game at the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Cotton Fitzsimmons was a guy who immediately gave me the impression he was going to adjust to his players,” said Colangelo as Fitzsimmons coached two seasons at Kansas State before joining the Suns.

Flexibility has become one of the quality traits of Fitzsimmons training.

“First of all, he was one of the most positive people you have ever met,” Colangelo said. “He knew how to interact with the players. He was really a player coach. Always looking for his players, but he could communicate. He was a communicator and I thought very early, because I was myself a young kid, that the key to being successful in the NBA was flexibility. You really had to be flexible and willing to change and that’s why I hired him. ”

Fitzsimmons died on July 24, 2004 at the age of 72 from complications from lung cancer. He is now one of three Hall of Fame Suns as contributors with Colangelo (2004) and former Suns president Rick Weiss (2018) being the other two.

The HOF 2021 class is as follows:

  • North American and Women’s Committees: Paul Pierce (player), Chris Bosh (player), Chris Webber (player), Ben Wallace (player), Rick Adelman (coach), Jay Wright (coach, Bill Russell (first African-American coach in the NBA), Yolanda Griffith (player) and Lauren Jackson player).
  • Contributors: Cotton Fitzsimmons, Val Ackerman, Howard Garfinkel.
  • Early African-American pioneers: Clarence “Fats” Jenkins.
  • International: Toni Kukoc.
  • Veterans: Bob Dandridge.
  • Female veterans: Pearl Moore.
Cotton Fitzsimmons picked up Charles Barkley at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 1992.

The Suns have 11 former Hall of Fame players (class in parentheses).

  • Connie Hawkins (1992).
  • Gail Goodrich (1996).
  • Charles Barkley (2006).
  • Dennis Johnson (2010).
  • Gus Johnson (2010).
  • Shaquille O’Neal (2016).
  • Steve Nash (2018).
  • Jason Kidd (2018).
  • Grant Hill (2018).
  • Charlie Scott (2018).
  • Paul Westphal (2019).

Current Suns vice-president Ann Meyers Drysdale was listed in the Class of 1993 while Al McCoy, aka The Voice of the Suns, received the Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2007.

Do you have an opinion on the current state of the suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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