Cotton Fitzsimmons’ Career Timeline

Posted: July 24, 2004

The Phoenix Suns lost a dear friend tonight, but the passing of Lowell Fitzsimmons will be felt throughout the basketball world. Better known as "Cotton," Fitzsimmons' coaching career spanned nearly 40 years and included numerous accomplishments. The following is a look at just a few of the more memorable moments of his illustrious career.


1931 – Born in Hannibal, Missouri

1958 – Began coaching career at Moberly (MO) Junior College

1966 – Won National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship

1967 – Won second-straight NJCAA Championship

1970 – Led Kansas State to NCAA regional semifinals

June 5, 1970 – Earned first NBA job as head coach of the Phoenix Suns

1973 – Led Atlanta to Eastern Conference Semifinals

1978-79 – NBA Coach of the Year with Kansas City Kings

1981 – Led Kansas City to Western Conference Finals

1981 – Inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

1985 – Inducted into the National Junior College Hall of Fame

May 13, 1987 – Named the Suns' first-ever director of player personnel

Feb. 25, 1988 – Orchestrated the midseason trade that sent All-Star Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first-round pick to Cleveland for eventual All-Star Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin, and first and second-round picks

May 10, 1988 – Named head coach of the Suns for the second time

1988 – Inducted into the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame

1988-1989 – Guided Phoenix to the third-largest turnaround in NBA history, winning 27 more games than the previous season, and the Western Conference Finals

May 25, 1989 – Named NBA Coach of the Year

1990 – Led Phoenix to the Western Conference Finals

March 31, 1992 – Recorded 800th career victory vs. Portland, becoming only the sixth coach in NBA history to reach that milestone

April 23, 1992 – Retired as Suns head coach; named Suns senior executive vice president

Jan. 16, 1996 – Returned to bench for third stint as head coach of the Suns

Nov. 14, 1996 – Stepped down as Suns coach, retiring with an 832-775 record, at the time the sixth most wins by a coach in NBA history

July 24, 2004 – Died in Phoenix at the age of 72


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