Cotton Fitzsimmons was selected as a contributor to the Naismith Basketball HOF

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

Posthumously recognized, Fitzsimmons was elected as a contributor to the 2021 class. The two-time NBA coach of the year led the Phoenix Suns as head coach to five playoff appearances in his eight seasons.

The 2021 anchoring ceremony will be held on September 11th in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“I’m very happy,” said Sun’s former team owner Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “I’m very excited for his family. Really an ambassador for the game. There hasn’t been a person in the game who didn’t have great things to say about Cotton. So this is a fair reward for a career devoted to the game.”

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

The 1988-89 Suns under Fitzsimmons had the third-largest turnaround in NBA history at the time, going from 28 preseason wins to 55.

The 1989-90 roster reached the conference finals as the fifth seed, beating Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers before losing to Portland.

“My father figure and exactly why I played 18 in the NBA,” said Eddie Johnson, the team’s color commentator, who averaged 21.5 on the Sun’s 1988-89 team and 16.9 on the 1989-90 team Scored points. “Best pro coach I’ve ever had. Deserved and ultimately recognized.”

Fitzsimmons was the sixth NBA coach to have 800 wins in the 1991/92 season. When his coaching career ended, Fitzsimmons was sixth on the NBA’s list of all wins with a record of 832-775 in 21 seasons as an NBA coach.

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

“I decided to hire someone because I couldn’t do everything myself,” said Colangelo. “Back then I was the coach, the GM (General Manager). I didn’t have any assistants. I didn’t have a scout. I did everything because it used to be like that.”

Colangelo recalls interviewing three candidates and said the other two were hired in their own way.

“They were a bit blind with players,” said Colangelo. “They wanted people to adapt to them.”

Fitzsimmons was the opposite at the age of 39.

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

“Cotton Fitzsimmons was the type of guy who immediately made me feel like he would adjust to his players,” said Colangelo when Fitzsimmons trained at Kansas State for two seasons before joining the Suns.

Flexibility has become a hallmark of Fitzsimmons’ quality.

“First, he was one of the most positive people you would ever meet,” said Colangelo. “He knew how to deal with players. He was really a player-coach. He was always on the lookout for his players, but he could communicate. He was a communicator and I thought early on because I was a little kid myself, that was him Key to it. ” To be successful in the NBA was flexibility. You had to be really flexible and ready to change and that’s why I really hired him. ”

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

The 2021 HOF 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 NBA coach), Yolanda Griffith (player) ) and Lauren Jackson players).
  • Contributors: Cotton Fitzsimmons, Val Ackerman, Howard Garfinkel.
  • Early African American Pioneers: Clarence “Fats” Jenkins.
  • International: Toni Kukoc.
  • Veterans: Bob Dandridge.
  • Women veterans: Pearl Moore.

Cotton Fitzsimmons picks up Charles Barkley at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 1992.

The suns have 11 former players in the Hall of Fame (class in brackets).

  • 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).

The current Vice President of Suns, Ann Meyers Drysdale, was enlisted as a player in the class in 1993, while Al McCoy, also known as “The Voice of the Suns,” received the 2007 Curt Gowdy Media Award.

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

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