Cotton Fitzsimmons

Cotton Fitzsimmons (1931-2004)

Teams coached: Kansas State Wildcats, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Buffalo Braves, Kansas City Kings, San Antonio Spurs
Kansas State record: 34-20 (.630)
Overall record^: 34-20 (.630)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  1  (1970)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen:  1  (1970)
  • NCAA Tournament Final Four:  0
  • NIT Championships:  0
  • NIT Appearances:  0
  • Big Eight Regular Season Champion:  1  (1970)
  • NJCAA National Championships:  2  (1966, 1967)


Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1996-1997 Phoenix Suns
1988-1992 Phoenix Suns
1984-1986 San Antonio Spurs
1978-1984 Kansas City Kings
1977-1978 Buffalo Braves
1972-1976 Atlanta Hawks
1970-1972 Phoenix Suns
1968-1970 Kansas State
1967-1968 Kansas State (asst)
1958-1967 Moberly JC

Cotton Fitzsimmons Facts

  • Lowell Fitzsimmons
  • Born October 7, 1931
  • Died July 24, 2004
  • Hometown: Bowling Green, Missouri
  • Alma Mater: Midwestern State University (BA, 1956 & MA, 1958)
  • Graduated from Bowling Green HS (MO) and then attended Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, MO
    • Finished his playing career at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, TX, earning two degrees from the school
  • Started his coaching career at Moberly JC (MO), going 223-59 in nine seasons as head coach
    • Won back-to-back NJCAA National Championships to finish his tenure (1966 & 1967)
    • Later inducted into the NJCAA Basketball Coaches Association HOF (c/o 1985)
    • Now Moberly Area CC, the school built “Fitzsimmons-John Arena” in 1998, honoring him and predecessor Maury John
  • Hired in 1967 to be an assistant under Tex Winter at Kansas State, then became the head coach in 1968
  • Left K-State in 1970 to pursue opportunities with professional basketball teams
    • Coached five different franchises over the next three decades: the Phoenix Suns (three separate stints), Atlanta Hawks, Buffalo Braves, Kansas City Kings and San Antonio Spurs
    • Amassed a 832-775 record in 1,607 games as an NBA head coach, spread over 21 different seasons
    • Reached the NBA Playoffs 12 times, including three trips to the Western Conference Finals
    • Inducted into the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor (2005) and the Arizona Sports HOF (2015)
      • Has the number “832” retired in his honor by the Phoenix Suns, in recognition of his NBA coaching career
    • Retired in 1997 with eighth most career wins of any NBA head coach (has since been passed by several coaches)
  • Also inducted into the Missouri Sports HOF (c/o 1981) and Midwestern State Hall of Honor (c/o 2004)
  • Passed away at age 72 in 2004 after battling brain cancer; survived by his wife, JoAnn, and their son, Gary

Cotton Fitzsimmons Coaching Tree

  • Leon Douglas (Miles College, Tuskegee, Stillman)
  • Armen Gilliam (Penn State Altoona, Penn State McKeesport)
  • Frank Hamblin (Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls)
  • Clem Haskins (Minnesota, Western Kentucky)
  • Jeff Hornacek (New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns)
  • Lionel Hollins (Brooklyn Nets, Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies)
  • Marc Iavaroni (Memphis Grizzlies)
  • Bob Kauffman (Detroit Pistons)
  • Dan Majerle (Grand Canyon)
  • Danny Manning (Maryland, Wake Forest, Tulsa)
  • Bob Nash (Hawaii)
  • Kurt Rambis (New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Scotty Robertson (Detroit Pistons)
  • Paul Silas (Charlotte Bobcats/New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Diego Clippers)
  • Paul Westphal (Sacramento Kings, Pepperdine, Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns)
  • John Wetzel (Phoenix Suns)
  • Mike Woodson (Indiana, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks)


^ overall record includes head coaching positions at the NCAA Division I level only