Phoenix Suns Charities Announces Spirit of Cotton Award Winner
PHOENIX – The winner of the 5th annual Spirit of Cotton Award is David Lopez of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix. Phoenix Suns Charities will honor Coach Lopez - the boy’s varsity basketball coach for the past 28 years - when the Suns take on the Portland Trail Blazers tonight (Tuesday, April 20) in Game 2 of the First Round of the NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Lopez has coached five Arizona State Player of the Year award winners, including current Suns center Channing Frye and Trail Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless. Coach Lopez’s success has garnered him two Coach of the Year awards from the Arizona Coaches Association and Region Coach of the Year honors eight times. He holds a career coaching record of 562-274, including his teams making 22 State Tournament appearances, and winning two state titles. In addition, Coach Lopez contributes to the local community through the annual Salvation Army Turkey Drive and his hosting of multiple basketball clinics for Arizona youth.
"Naturally, I am very honored to receive the Spirit of Cotton Award,” said Coach Lopez. “Cotton was an influential person in many lives, especially high school coaches. I knew he was a fan of St. Mary’s and was always very aware and complimentary of what was going on at St. Mary’s. Personally, I would like to thank my sons (Damin, Eli and Adam) who were my assistants, along with all of my players. It is also very special to receive the award in the presence of Channing, Jerryd and all of the Suns fans."
The Spirit of Cotton Award, named in memory of former Suns Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons who passed away in July 2004, honors a high school coach in Arizona who consistently demonstrates the best qualities of coach, leader, educator, mentor and community leader.
“It is an honor and a privilege each year to reward an Arizona coach with the Spirit of Cotton Award,” said JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons. “Coach Lopez has had a tremendous influence on so many of his players that he has coached throughout the years, including Channing Frye. Playing the Trail Blazers is a stroke of serendipity that has fellow Knight, Jerryd Bayless, at US Airways Center for the presentation as well.”
As part of the award, Coach Lopez will receive a commemorative plaque, custom ring designed by Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers, and an Arizona weekend get-away for two at the luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale, including dinner at their new La Hacienda restaurant and spa treatments at the Willow Stream Spa. In addition, Phoenix Suns Charities will make a grant of $10,000 to St. Mary’s High School’s athletic department. Past recipients include Coach Dick McConnell of Sahuaro High School (2006), Coach Gary Ernst of Mountain View High School (2007), Coach Karen Self of Seton Catholic High School (2008) and Coach Howard Mueller of Greenway High School (2009).
Fitzsimmons had been an integral part of the Suns since 1970 with his first of three stints as the team’s head coach. Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises, which places him 13th on the NBA’s all-time coaching victory list. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City and 1989 with the Suns).