The Suns’ Best Pay Homage to
Fitzsimmons with Ring of Honor Induction
Posted: March 18, 2005
“You know it’s a big night when Kevin Johnson shows up.”
Charles Barkley had it half right during Cotton Fitzsimmons’ posthumous Ring of Honor ceremony Friday night.
You know it’s a big night when every member of the Suns’ most exclusive club, with the exception of Walter Davis who’s coaching overseas, came out to pay homage to the three-time Phoenix head coach on his big night at America West Arena. The exclusive list included KJ, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Connie Hawkins, Dan Majerle, Joe Proski, Dick Van Arsdale, Paul Westphal and Sir Charles – the biggest Suns Ring of Honor turnout ever.
“It was just a great night,” Barkley said after the ceremony. “Cotton meant a great deal to me because he brought me to Phoenix. It was the best thing that ever happened in my life. It’s a typical Cotton night, because everybody’s got nothing but Cotton stories. You can see the appreciation with all the former players, the fans and all the bigwigs coming out to support him tonight.”
“He would have been very proud and happy,” added Majerle about the night, “but he was always about other people. Not himself. My name is up there and I’m really proud my name will be up there with him.”
Former Suns guard and head coach Westphal took time out from his coaching gig at Pepperdine to attend.
“There’s a lot of really wonderful people that have a history with this franchise and with everybody going their separate ways, it’s nice to be able to touch base with them,” Westy said. “It’s a great honor for Cotton, but he probably wouldn’t have wanted it for himself if he was here. That’s probably why he wasn’t up there sooner. It’s great to get together, even with the circumstances. We wish he was here.”
In spirit and in the hearts of those in attendance, Cotton definitely was.
The night was filled with plenty of reminders of the coaching great, from free posters and buttons, and video montages to an impressive collection of Cotton’s basketball mementos on display in the America West Arena Pavilion. Fans, peers and colleagues got a first-hand glimpse at various trophies, coaching-milestone game balls and his famous “Vice President of Nothing” desk placard.
As only he can, Barkley turned light-hearted as he pointed out to the media that the night’s turnout said a lot about the person the Suns family was honoring.
“Trust me,” the Chuckster jokingly said to Suns.com, “when something happens to you, ain’t nobody gonna be there.”
While the Purple Palace may have officially gone “white” with Cotton’s Ring of Honor induction, a rainbow of colors found their way to America West Arena through attire provided by the coaching legend’s wife, JoAnn.
She gave the Ring of Honor members, team broadcasters and front office executives neckties from Cotton’s personal collection as gifts. Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni sported a blue Versace, while Chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo, President Bryan Colangelo and Managing Partner Robert Sarver received the three ties Cotton believed brought him the most luck during his coaching career.
Fellow Ring of Honor member Dan Majerle quipped, “It may have looked good on Cotton, but it looks better on me.”
Tom Chambers admitted he had to tie a pretty tight knot to get the neckwear to fit his 6-10 frame, but nonetheless he thanked JoAnn for the honor to wear something that belonged to his first Suns head coach.
“JoAnn always knows how to say the right thing, mean the right thing and give the right thing,” TC said. “Cotton was the same type of person. Tonight we have him around our necks, but we will all wear Cotton on our sleeves for the rest of our lives.”