Phoenix Suns Charities will once again honor the memory of former Suns head coach and Ring of Honor member, Cotton Fitzsimmons, with its 12th annual Spirit of Cotton Award. Nomination forms are available by clicking here and are being accepted now through March 3, 2017.

The award recognizes a high school basketball coach in Arizona who consistently demonstrates the best qualities of a coach, educator, mentor and community leader, which are the same characteristics that made Cotton Fitzsimmons such a successful and well-respected head coach. The Spirit of Cotton Award is open to all high school head basketball coaches, for both girls and boys teams, throughout the state. Nominations can be made by a community member, fellow coach/teacher, school administrator or student-athlete.

The Spirit of Cotton Award recipient will receive a $10,000 grant, courtesy of Phoenix Suns Charities, for use in the school’s athletic program, as well as a commemorative plaque and ring, custom made and presented by Coffin and Trout Fine Jewellers. In addition, the winner will be recognized and honored during a special on-court presentation with JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of Cotton Fitzsimmons, at the Suns-Dallas Mavericks game on April 9. 

Previous Spirit of Cotton Award recipients include Rick McConnell of Dobson High School (2016), Ken Vargas of Miami High School (2015), Robert Koehne of Valley Lutheran High School (2014), Sam Duane of Corona del Sol High School (2013), Raul Mendoza of Holbrook High School (2012), Byron Maynes of Salome High School (2011), David Lopez of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix (2010) and Howard Mueller of Phoenix Greenway High School (2009).

Fitzsimmons, who passed away in July 2004, had been an integral part of the Suns franchise since 1970 when he began his first of three stints as the team’s head coach. After spending time with four other teams, he rejoined the Suns in 1987 as director of player personnel.  In 1988-89, Fitzsimmons returned to the sidelines and engineered what was, at the time, the third-largest single-season turnaround in NBA history, transforming the Suns from a 28-win non-playoff team to a 55-win team that advanced to the 1989 Western Conference Finals.

Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises and was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City, 1989 with the Suns). He was posthumously inducted as the 11th member of the Suns Ring of Honor on March 18, 2005.

Phoenix Suns Charities has been focused on making our community a better place since 1988. Since its inception, Phoenix Suns Charities has invested more than $18 million in our community. The Suns philanthropic arm enjoyed another strong year in 2016, raising more than $1 million for Arizona non-profits.