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Phoenix Suns legend Cotton Fitzsimmons elected to Hall of Fame

LANDOVER, MD - CIRCA 1990: Head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons of the Phoenix Suns talks with his player Kevin Johnson #7 during an NBA basketball game against the Washington Bullets circa 1990 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. Fitzsimmons coached the Suns from 1970-72, 1988-92 and 1996. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

The Cotton Express is on its way to its final destination: The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Hall announced on Sunday that Phoenix Suns coaching legend Cotton Fitzsimmons was elected to be posthumously enshrined in Springfield, Mass. as part of the 2021 class.

Fitzsimmons was elected to the Hall of Fame as a contributor after coaching 21 total seasons in the NBA. His 832 career wins between five teams ranked sixth-most in league history as of his final game, and he currently ranks 16th.

Fitzsimmons had three different tenures as the head coach of the Suns, during which the team went 341-208 (.621).

The Suns Ring of Honor member became part of the organization in its third season as a franchise. Over the team’s first two years, Phoenix won 16 and 39 games. Fitzsimmons propelled them to a 48-win season his first year with the team and to 49 wins in the second.

He reunited with the team in 1986 to serve as the Suns’ director of player personnel. Fitzsimmons was considered a key part in putting together the trade that netted Phoenix Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin and the draft pick that became Dan Majerle, which helped set up their future.

Following the 1987-88 season in which the team won 25 games and was engulfed in a drug scandal, Fitzsimmons retook the coaching position.

Phoenix immediately went 55-27 and made the Western Conference Finals, and Fitzsimmons was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.

He helped pull the Suns out of the ’80s by leading them to four straight playoff appearances that included two runs to the conference finals.

Fitzsimmons left the coaching role following the 1992 season to serve as the senior executive vice president. In 1996, after the Suns started 14-19, Fitzsimmons returned to the bench and led them on a 27-22 finish to secure their eighth playoff appearance in a row.

He is part of a 16-member Hall of Fame class. Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber will be inducted as NBA players. Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson will be inducted as WNBA players.

Rick Adelman will be inducted as an NBA coach, as will Bill Russell, who is the fifth person to be elected to the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Jay Wright was elcted for his coaching at Villanova.

Fitzsimmons, Val Ackermann and Howard Garfinkel were elected as contributors to the game.

Clarence “Fats” Jenkins was elected by the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Toni Kukoc was selected by the International Committee, Bob Dandridge by the Veterans Committee and Pearl Moore by the Women’s Veterans Committee.

The 16 will be enshrined during a ceremony on Sept. 11.


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