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Ex-NBA coach Fitzsimmons dies


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Fitzsimmons leaves legacy of enthusiasm

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Lowell "Cotton" Fitzsimmons was a guy who possessed a massive amount of spirit and enthusiasm. I really loved the passion he displayed on the sidelines for so many years as an NBA coach and later as a scout. He loved his involvement with basketball and it was easy to sense his pride. I was saddened by his recent death.

Cotton Fitzsimmons' wonderful exuberance will be missed by all.
Fitzsimmons was the NBA's Coach of the Year two times, partially because of the great energy that carried him throughout life. Fitzsimmons was also an example for so many coaches on all levels, pro, college and high school.

Unfortunately, he succumbed to the horrible disease of cancer. That's another reason why we keep asking people to support the V Foundation for Cancer Research to help get rid of this dreaded disease. The V Foundation was founded by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, the legendary college basketball coach and ESPN broadcaster (and my good friend).

Help battle the disease that has taken so many beautiful people like Jimmy V and Cotton Fitzsimmons by calling 1-800-4-JIMMYV.

Cotton was oh-so-important in the Valley of the Sun and meant so much to the Phoenix Suns franchise. He spent 30 years in the organization and served as coach three times while also working in the administration.

USA Today quoted Suns owner Jerry Colangelo as saying Fitzsimmons was the only person he'd given a lifetime contract. Charles Barkley also was quoted as saying Fitzsimmons changed his career when he bought him to Phoenix.

Fitzsimmons was a man who had a special way of connecting and communicating with his players. He was a warm, loving person. Cotton also connected well with fans as he also provided excellent analysis over the years.

We extend our sympathy to his family.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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