July 28, 2004 by

Cotton Fitzsimmons

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Categories: Sports

cfitzsimmons.jpgLowell “Cotton” Fitzsimmons, an NBA coach who won 832 games in 21 seasons, died on July 24 of lung cancer. He was 72.
Born in Hannibal, Mo., Fitzsimmons launched his coaching career in 1958 at Moberly Junior College. During his nine seasons there, he led the basketball team to two national titles and was twice named junior college coach of the year. Fitzsimmons coached at Kansas State for two seasons, guided the Wildcats to the conference title and earned Big Eight coach of the year honors in 1970.
Fitzsimmons was lured away from college hoops and into the National Basketball Association that same year. He coached Phoenix for two seasons, then Atlanta (1972-1976), Kansas City (1978-1984) and San Antonio (1984-1986). Known for transforming struggling teams into respectable athletic franchises, Fitzsimmons returned to Phoenix in 1988 and helped the Suns win 55 games, 21 more than the previous season.
Over the next four years, Phoenix played four straight 50-win seasons and reached the Western Conference finals twice. Fitzsimmons moved to the Suns’ front office in the early 1990s, but temporarily returned to coaching the team when Paul Westphal was fired in 1996. Fitzsimmons’ final years were spent working as an executive vice president of the Suns and as a television and radio commentator for the team.
A two-time NBA Coach of the Year (in 1979 with Kansas City and in 1989 with Phoenix), Fitzsimmons was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame, the National Junior College Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Career Statistics From BasketballReference.com

2 Responses to Cotton Fitzsimmons

  1. David Lawrence

    Cotton Fitzsimmons was one of three great teachers in my life; the other two were my Dad and Dr Martin Luther King! I admired him, I respected him, and I loved him!!!!!!!!!
    David Lawrence

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