Former and current Flagstaff players honor Tyrone Johnson via Zoom conference call as he wins the award named after Suns legend Cotton Fitzsimmons.
Longtime Flagstaff High School’s girls basketball head coach Tyrone Johnson sat down for a regularly scheduled Zoom conference call on Wednesday.
Johnson was shocked when the Phoenix Suns Charities representatives entered the virtual meeting with his past and present players to reveal he’s the recipient of the organization’s 15th Spirit of Cotton Award.
“I honestly and truthfully didn’t expect any of this right now,” Johnson said with nervous laughter.
Flagstaff head coach Tyrone Johnson talks to his team during a timeout against Pueblo. (Photo: Aaron Nicholson/azcentral sports)
Named after late Suns coaching legend Cotton Fitzsimmons, the annual Spirit of Cotton Award honors an outstanding Arizona high school basketball coach who exemplifies Cotton’s leadership, dedication and service to the community in helping guide and mentor student-athletes.
Johnson will receive a $10,000 grant from Phoenix Suns Charities for his high school’s athletic program, a custom ring designed and donated by Coffin & Trout Jewelers as part of the award’s package.
“We started out having a few questions for you, but we’ve already made the decision. You are going to be receiving the Spirit of Cotton Coaches’ Award,” Cotton’s widow JoAnn Fitzsimmons said to Johnson.
Many of the Flagstaff girls basketball players thanked Johnson for his impact in their lives on and off the court.
Cotton Fitzsimmons passed away from lung cancer at age 72 in 2004. He was a two-time NBA Coach of the Year who began his tenure with the Suns in 1970-72 as its head coach.
After he returned to the team in 1986, Fitzsimmons helped develop the Suns into one of the league’s winningest franchises as a general manager and three-time coach before he resigned in 1997. He was posthumously inducted as the 11th member of the Suns Ring of Honor in 2005.
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