Phoenix Suns Charities Announces Spirit of Cotton Award Winner

Posted: April 14, 2014

PHOENIX – The winner of the 9th annual Spirit of Cotton Award is Robert Koehne, head coach of the Valley Lutheran High School boys’ varsity basketball team in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix Suns Charities honored Coach Koehne at tonight’s Suns-Grizzlies game at US Airways Center.

Koehne has over 17 years of experience coaching basketball on the high school level and has led his programs to numerous winning seasons. His accolades include 2010 1A State Championship Runners-Up and a state tournament appearance all four years as head coach at Valley Lutheran High School. Koehne has also been the recipient of multiple Coach of the Year awards. In addition to his accomplishments on the court, Koehne was named the Phoenix Suns “Educator of the Month” in January 2012, and has established himself as a community leader through his work to coordinate multiple community service opportunities for Valley students each year.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the Spirit of Cotton Award,” said a grateful Koehne. “It is a privilege to be able to coach young men each year and teach not only the game of basketball, but more importantly, life lessons. Oftentimes, success in sports is measured in wins and losses, but the longer I coach the more I recognize true success in high school athletics is measured in the development and maturity of the young men I have the opportunity to coach and mentor.”

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 a coach, educator, mentor and community leader.

“Like Cotton, Bob Koehne is committed to his team, his players and his community,” said JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons. “Administrators, rival coaches, and friends have echoed the praises of Coach Koehne, but a former player from Valley Lutheran High School bluntly stated that if he does not receive the Spirit of Cotton Award, ‘then you have made the wrong choice.’ We believe we have made the right choice and are thrilled to have Bob Koehne receive this year's honor. He truly deserves it.”

As part of the award, Coach Koehne will receive a commemorative plaque and custom ring designed by Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers. In addition, Phoenix Suns Charities will make a grant of $10,000 to Valley Lutheran High School’s athletic department.

Fitzsimmons is an integral part of Suns history, having begun his first of three stints as the team’s head coach in 1970. Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City and 1989 with the Suns).