Suns Charities Announces Spirit of Cotton Winner

Posted: April 11, 2013

The winner of the 9th annual Spirit of Cotton Award is Sam Duane, head coach of the Corona del Sol High School boys’ varsity basketball team in Tempe, Arizona. Phoenix Suns Charities will honor Coach Duane at the Suns-Rockets game on Monday, April 15 at US Airways Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

Over the past 20 years, Duane has coached basketball in the state of Arizona on both the high school and college level. He has led his programs to numerous winning seasons, including back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013 as head varsity coach at Corona del Sol. Duane has also been the recipient of 12 Coach of the Year honors, including Arizona Coaches Association Coach of the Year, Arizona Republic Big School Coach of the Year and East Valley Tribune Coach of the Year. In addition to his accomplishments on the court, Duane is regarded by his peers as one of the most respectable coaches in the game. He has established himself as a leader through his work at youth basketball clinics by teaching life skills that translate to those youth becoming positive members of the community.

“I am truly honored to receive the Spirit of Cotton Award,” said a grateful Duane. “Cotton Fitzsimmons was a coach I followed and admired growing up, who had a great impact on Arizona basketball as well as its players and coaches. Thank you to everyone that made this special award possible.”

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.

“Winning back-to-back state championships is quite an accomplishment, but that is not the reason we selected Coach Duane to receive this year's Spirit of Cotton Award,” said JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons. “He is admired and respected by his community, his colleagues, his players and even his competitors. His team is a direct reflection of his character, dedication and leadership. That positive influence also reflects the Spirit of Cotton and that is why we are so happy to be honoring him with this year's Award.”

As part of the award, Coach Duane 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 Corona Del Sol High School’s athletic department.

Fitzsimmons had been an integral part of the Suns since 1970, when he began 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. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City and 1989 with the Suns).