Richard Alvin Harter was an American basketball coach who served as both a head and assistant coach in both the NBA and NCAA. Born in Pottstown, Harter attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he played basketball for the Quakers and graduated in 1953, he served two years as an officer in the U. S. Marine Corps, was an assistant freshman coach back at Penn for a year, he coached at Germantown Academy for three years back to Penn in 1959 as an assistant coach. Harter left Penn in 1965 to become head coach at Rider University returned to Penn as its head coach. After success at Penn, with just one regular season defeat in his final two seasons, Harter was hired in April 1971 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, he succeeded Steve Belko, who stepped down after fifteen years and consecutive 17–9 seasons to become assistant athletic director. Harter was regarded as one of the top defensive coaches in the 1970s, where his "Kamikaze Kids" at Oregon in the Pac-8 were known for a swarming defense.
Many basketball notables came from Harter's Duck program, including Stu Jackson and former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent. After seven seasons in Eugene, Harter left Oregon in 1978, at a salary of $38,000 annually, for Penn State and $41,000, where he stayed for five seasons. Harter's first job in the NBA was as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons in the 1982–83 season, he left in 1986 to become an assistant for the Indiana Pacers. In 1988, he was hired with the expansion Charlotte Hornets. In the team's second season Harter was fired in 1990 during mid-season when the Hornets' record was 8–32. Harter went on to be an assistant coach for the New York Knicks under Pat Riley, Portland Trail Blazers under P. J. Carlesimo, Indiana Pacers under Larry Bird, Boston Celtics under Jim O'Brien. Harter joined the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching staff on May 5, 2004. On June 13, 2007, Harter joined the Indiana Pacers for the third time, as an assistant coach under O'Brien. Harter died on March 12, 2012, at the age of 81.
The cause of death was cancer, said Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky, a co-captain on the 1971 team. Harter died at a hospital at South Carolina, where he had a residence. Dick Harter at Basketball-Reference.com Sports-Reference.com – Dick Harter Dick Harter at Find a Grave
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are an American professional basketball team based in Los Angeles. The Lakers compete in the National Basketball Association, as a member of the league's Western Conference in the Pacific Division; the Lakers play their home games at Staples Center, an arena shared with the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women's National Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League. The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA, have won 16 NBA championships, the second-most behind the Boston Celtics; the franchise began with the 1947 purchase of a disbanded team, the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League. The new team began calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers. A member of the NBL, the Lakers won the 1948 NBL championship before joining the rival Basketball Association of America, where they would win five of the next six championships, led by star George Mikan. After struggling financially in the late 1950s following Mikan's retirement, they relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season.
Led by Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, Los Angeles made the NBA Finals six times in the 1960s, but lost each series to the Celtics, beginning their long and storied rivalry. In 1968, the Lakers acquired four-time NBA Most Valuable Player Wilt Chamberlain, won their sixth NBA title—and first in Los Angeles—in 1972, led by new head coach Bill Sharman. After the retirement of West and Chamberlain, the team acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won multiple MVP awards, but was unable to make the Finals in the late 1970s; the 1980s Lakers were nicknamed "Showtime" due to their fast break-offense led by Magic Johnson. The team won five championships in a nine-year span, contained Hall of Famers Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, was led by Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. After Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson retired, the team struggled in the early 1990s, before acquiring Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in 1996. With the duo, who were led by another Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the team won three consecutive titles between 2000 to 2002, securing the franchise its second "three-peat".
The Lakers won two more championships in 2009 and 2010, but failed to regain their former glory in the following decade. The Lakers hold the record for NBA's longest winning streak, 33 straight games, set during the 1971–72 season. 21 Hall of Famers have played for Los Angeles. Four Lakers—Abdul-Jabbar, Johnson, O'Neal, Bryant—have won the NBA MVP Award for a total of eight awards; the Lakers' franchise began in 1947 when Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen of Minnesota purchased the disbanded Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League for $15,000 from Gems owner Maury Winston. Minneapolis sportswriter Sid Hartman played a key behind the scenes role in helping put together the deal and the team. Inspired by Minnesota's nickname, "Land of 10,000 Lakes", the team christened themselves the Lakers. Hartman helped them hire John Kundla from College of St. Thomas, to be their first head coach, by meeting with him and selling him on the team; the Lakers had a solid roster, which featured forward Jim Pollard, playmaker Herm Schaefer, center George Mikan, who became the most dominant player in the NBL.
In their first season, they led the league with a 43–17 record winning the NBL Championship that season. In 1948, the Lakers moved from the NBL to the Basketball Association of America, Mikan's 28.3 point per game scoring average set a BAA record. In the 1949 BAA Finals they won the championship; the following season, the team improved to 51–17, repeating as champions. In the 1950–51 season, Mikan won his third straight scoring title at 28.4 ppg and the Lakers went 44–24 to win their second straight division title. One of those games, a 19–18 loss against the Fort Wayne Pistons, became infamous as the lowest scoring game in NBA history. In the playoffs, they defeated the Indianapolis Olympians in three games but lost to the Rochester Royals in the next round. During the 1951 -- 52 season, the Lakers won 40 games, they faced the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. In the 1952–53 season, Mikan led the NBA in rebounding, averaging 14.4 rebounds per game, was named MVP of the 1953 NBA All-Star Game.
After a 48–22 regular season, the Lakers defeated the Fort Wayne Pistons in the Western playoffs to advance to the NBA Finals. They defeated the New York Knicks to win their second straight championship. Though Lakers star George Mikan suffered from knee problems throughout the 1953–54 season, he was still able to average 18 ppg. Clyde Lovellette, drafted in 1952, helped the team win the Western Division; the team won its third straight championship in the 1950s and fifth in six seasons when it defeated the Syracuse Nationals in seven games. Following Mikan's retirement in the 1954 off-season, the Lakers struggled but still managed to win 40 games. Although they defeated the Rochester Royals in the first round of the playoffs, they were defeated by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the semifinals. Although they had losing records the next two seasons, they made the playoffs each year. Mikan came back for the last half of the 1955–56 season, but struggled and retired for good after the season. Led by Lovellette's 20.6 points and 13.5 rebounds, they advanced to the Conference Finals in 1956–57.
The Lakers had one of the worst seasons in team history in 1957–58 when they won a league-low 19 games. They had hired Mikan, the team's general manager for the previous two seasons, as head coach to replace Kundla. Mikan was fired in January when
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player, a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two more as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals MVP. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving have called him the greatest basketball player of all time. After winning 71 consecutive basketball games on his high school team in New York City, Alcindor was recruited by Jerry Norman, the assistant coach of UCLA, where he played for coach John Wooden on three consecutive national championship teams and was a record three-time MVP of the NCAA Tournament.
Drafted with the first overall pick by the one-season-old Bucks franchise in the 1969 NBA draft, Alcindor spent six seasons in Milwaukee. After leading the Bucks to its first NBA championship at age 24 in 1971, he took the Muslim name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Using his trademark "skyhook" shot, he established himself as one of the league's top scorers. In 1975, he was traded to the Lakers, with whom he played the final 14 seasons of his career and won five additional NBA championships. Abdul-Jabbar's contributions were a key component in the "Showtime" era of Lakers basketball. Over his 20-year NBA career, his teams succeeded in making the playoffs 18 times and got past the first round 14 times. At the time of his retirement at age 42 in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, field goals made, field goal attempts, blocked shots, defensive rebounds, career wins, personal fouls, he remains the all-time leader in points scored and career wins.
He is ranked third all-time in blocked shots. In 2007, ESPN voted him the greatest center of all time, in 2008, they named him the "greatest player in college basketball history", in 2016, they named him the second best player in NBA history. Abdul-Jabbar has been an actor, a basketball coach, a best-selling author. In 2012, he was selected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be a U. S. global cultural ambassador. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. was born in New York City, the only child of Cora Lillian, a department store price checker, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr. a transit police officer and jazz musician. He grew up in the Dyckman Street projects in the Inwood neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. Alcindor was unusually tall from a young age. At birth he weighed 12 lb 11 oz and was 22 1⁄2 inches long, by the age of nine he was 5 ft 8 in tall. By the eighth grade he had grown to 6 ft 8 in tall and could slam dunk a basketball.
Alcindor began his record-breaking basketball accomplishments when he was in high school, where he led coach Jack Donahue's Power Memorial Academy team to three straight New York City Catholic championships, a 71-game winning streak, a 79–2 overall record. This earned him a nickname—"The tower from Power", his 2,067 total points were a New York City high school record. The team won the national high school boys basketball championship when Alcindor was in 10th and 11th grade and was runner-up his senior year. Alcindor had a strained relationship with his coach. In his 2017 book "Coach Wooden and Me," Abdul-Jabbar relates an incident where Donahue called him a nigger. Alcindor played on the UCLA freshman team in 1966 only because the "freshman rule" was in effect, but his prowess was well known, he received national coverage when he made his varsity debut in 1967: Sports Illustrated described him as "The New Superstar." From 1967 to 1969, he played on the varsity under head coach John Wooden. He was the main contributor to the team's three-year record of 88 wins and only two losses: one to the University of Houston in which Alcindor had an eye injury, the other to crosstown rival USC who played a "stall game".
In his first game, Alcindor scored 56 points. During his college career, Alcindor was twice named Player of the Year. In 1967 and 1968, he won USBWA College Player of the Year, which became the Oscar Robertson Trophy. Alcindor became the only player to win the Helms Foundation Player of the Year award three times; the 1965–66 UCLA Bruin team was the preseason #1. On November 27, 1965, the freshman team, led by Alcindor, defeated the varsity 75–60 in the first game in the new Pauley Pavilion. Alcindor had 21 rebounds in what was a good indication of things to come. After the game, the UCLA varsity was # 2 on campus. If the "freshman rule" had not been in effect at that time, UCLA would have had a much better chance of winning the 1966 National Championship. Alcindor had considered transferring to Michigan because of unfulfilled recruiting promises. UCLA player Willie Naul
The Chicago Bulls are an American professional basketball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls compete in the National Basketball Association as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Central Division; the team was founded on January 16, 1966. The team plays its home games at the United Center, an arena shared with the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League; the Bulls saw their greatest success during the 1990s when they were responsible for popularizing the NBA worldwide. They are known for having one of the NBA's greatest dynasties, winning six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 with two three-peats. All six championship teams were led by Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson; the Bulls are the only NBA franchise to win multiple championships and never lose an NBA Finals series in their history. The Bulls won 72 games during the 1995–96 NBA season, setting an NBA record that stood until the Golden State Warriors won 73 games during the 2015–16 NBA season.
The Bulls were the first team in NBA history to win 70 games or more in a single season, the only NBA franchise to do so until the 2015–16 Warriors. Many experts and analysts consider the 1996 Bulls to be one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose have both won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award while playing for the Bulls, for a total of six MVP awards; the Bulls share rivalries with the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. The Bulls' rivalry with the Pistons was highlighted during the late 1980s and early 1990s. On January 16, 1966 Chicago was granted an NBA franchise to be called the Bulls; the Chicago Bulls became the third NBA franchise in the city, after the Chicago Stags and the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs. The Bulls' founder, Dick Klein, was the Bulls' only owner to play professional basketball, he served as the Bulls' general manager in their initial years. After the 1966 NBA Expansion Draft, the newly founded Chicago Bulls were allowed to acquire players from the established teams in the league for the upcoming 1966–67 season.
The team started in the 1966–67 NBA season, posted the best record by an expansion team in NBA history. Coached by Chicagoan and former NBA star Johnny "Red" Kerr, led by former NBA assist leader Guy Rodgers, guard Jerry Sloan and forward Bob Boozer, the Bulls qualified for the playoffs, the only NBA team to do so in their inaugural season. In their first season, the Bulls played their home games at the International Amphitheatre, before moving to Chicago Stadium. Fan interest was diminishing after four seasons, with one game in the 1968 season having an official attendance of 891 and some games being played in Kansas City. In 1969, Klein dropped out of the general manager job and hired Pat Williams, who as the Philadelphia 76ers' business manager created promotions that helped the team become third in attendance the previous season. Williams revamped the team roster, acquiring Chet Walker from his old team in exchange for Jim Washington and drafting Norm Van Lier –, traded to the Cincinnati Royals and only joined the Bulls in 1971 – while investing in promotion, with actions such as creating mascot Benny the Bull.
The Bulls under Williams and head coach Dick Motta qualified for four straight playoffs and had attendances grow to over 10,000. In 1972, the Bulls set a franchise win-loss record at 25 losses. During the 1970s, the Bulls relied on Jerry Sloan, forwards Bob Love and Chet Walker, point guard Norm Van Lier, centers Clifford Ray and Tom Boerwinkle; the team made the conference finals in 1975 but lost to the eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors, 4 games to 3. After four 50-win seasons, Williams returned to Philadelphia, Motta decided to take on the role of GM as well; the Bulls ended up winning only 24 games in the 1975 -- 1976 season. Motta was replaced by Ed Badger. Klein sold the Bulls to longtime owners of the Chicago Blackhawks. Indifferent to NBA basketball, the new ownership group infamously implemented a shoestring budget, putting little time and investment into improving the team. Artis Gilmore, acquired in the ABA dispersal draft in 1976, led a Bulls squad which included guard Reggie Theus, forward David Greenwood and forward Orlando Woolridge.
In 1979, the Bulls lost a coin flip for the right to select first in the NBA draft. Had the Bulls won the toss, they would have selected Magic Johnson; the Los Angeles Lakers selected Johnson with the pick acquired from the New Orleans Jazz, who traded the selection for Gail Goodrich. After Gilmore was traded to the San Antonio Spurs for center Dave Corzine, the Bulls employed a high-powered offense centered around Theus, which soon included guards Quintin Dailey and Ennis Whatley. However, with continued dismal results, the Bulls decided to change direction, trading Theus to the Kansas City Kings during the 1983–84 season. Attendance began to dwindle, with the Wirtz Family looking to sell to ownership groups interested in moving the team out of Chicago, before selling to local ownership. In the summer of 1984, the Bulls had the third pick of the 1984 NBA draft, after Houston and Portland; the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon, the Blazers picked Sam Bowie and the Bulls chose shooting guard Michael Jordan.
The team, with new management in owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause, decided to rebuild around Jordan. Jordan set franchise records during his rookie campaign for scoring and steals, led the Bulls back to the playoffs, where they lost in four
Melvin Joe Daniels was an American professional basketball player. He played in the American Basketball Association for the Minnesota Muskies, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Sounds, in the National Basketball Association for the New York Nets. Daniels was a seven-time ABA All-Star, he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. Daniels attended Pershing High School in Detroit, which produced players like Spencer Haywood, Ralph Simpson, Kevin Willis and Steve Smith. Daniels played for the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team, where he averaged 20 points per game and was named an all-American. Daniels was the ninth pick of the 1967 NBA draft, selected by the Cincinnati Royals, was drafted by the Minnesota Muskies of the American Basketball Association, he chose to play in the fledgling ABA. Daniels was the ABA Rookie of the Year for the 1967–68 season before being traded to the Indiana Pacers of the ABA and now in the NBA. Daniels was the ABA Most Valuable Player in both 1969 and 1971 and led the Pacers to three ABA championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973.
Daniels played in seven ABA All-Star Games, was named the ABA All-Star Game MVP in the 1971 game. Daniels led the ABA in rebounding average in three different seasons, is the ABA's all-time leader in total rebounds and second in ABA career average rebounds per game behind Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels. Daniels had 1,608 career postseason rebounds. Daniels played for the NBA's New York Nets during the 1976–77 season. Overall, in his ABA/NBA career, Daniels averaged a double-double of 18.4 points and 14.9 rebounds in 639 career games. After retiring as a player, Daniels joined the coaching staff of his college coach, Bob King, at Indiana State. There he coached future Hall of Famer Larry Bird. Daniels joined the Indiana Pacers front office in 1986 and was the team's Director of Player Personnel until October 2009. Daniels died on October 30, 2015, from complications after heart surgery, he was survived by his wife, CeCe Daniels, son Mel Daniels Jr. two granddaughters, two sisters. Daniels was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts in 2012.
He formally joined former ABA players Connie Hawkins, Dan Issel, David Thompson and Artis Gilmore in the Hall on September 7, 2012. In 1997, Daniels was selected as a member of the ABA All-Time Team by a panel of ABA sports media and executives. Daniels' jersey is retired by the Pacers, he is one of four players to have his jersey retired by the Pacers. Career statistics and player information from Basketball-Reference.com ABA Records Archived September 11, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
The Phoenix Suns are an American professional basketball team based in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns compete in the National Basketball Association, as a member of the league's Western Conference Pacific Division, are the only team in their division not based in California; the Suns play their home games at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. The franchise began play in 1968 as an expansion team, their early years were shrouded in mediocrity, but their fortunes changed in the 1970s, after partnering long-term guard Dick Van Arsdale and center Alvan Adams with Paul Westphal, the Suns reached the 1976 NBA Finals, in what is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. However, after failing to capture a championship, the Suns would rebuild around Walter Davis for a majority of the 1980s, until the acquisition of Kevin Johnson in 1988. Under Johnson, after trading for perennial NBA All-Star Charles Barkley, combined with the output of Tom Chambers and Dan Majerle, the Suns reached the playoffs for a franchise-record thirteen consecutive appearances and remained a regular title contender throughout the 1990s, reached the 1993 NBA Finals.
However, the team would again fail to win a championship, entered into another period of mediocrity until the early part of the 2000s. In 2004, the Suns reacquired Steve Nash, returned into playoff contention. With Nash, Shawn Marion, Amar'e Stoudemire, under head coach Mike D'Antoni, the Suns became renowned worldwide for their quick, dynamic offense, which led them to tie a franchise record in wins in the 2004–05 season. Two more top two Conference placements followed, but the Suns again failed to attain an NBA championship, were forced into another rebuild; the Suns own the NBA's seventh-best all-time winning percentage, have the second highest winning percentage of any teams to have never won an NBA championship. 10 Hall of Famers have played for Phoenix, while two Suns—Barkley and Nash—have won the NBA Most Valuable Player award while playing for the team. The Suns were one of two franchises to join the NBA at the start of the 1968–69 season, alongside the Milwaukee Bucks from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
They were the first major professional sports franchise in the Phoenix market and in the entire state of Arizona, remained the only one for the better part of 20 years until the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League relocated from St. Louis in 1988; the Suns played its first 24 seasons at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, located northwest of downtown Phoenix. The franchise was formed by an ownership group led by Karl Eller, owner of a public enterprise, the investor Donald Pitt, Don Diamond, Bhavik Darji, Marvin Meyer, Richard Bloch. Other owners with a minority stake consisted of entertainers, such as Andy Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Ed Ames. There were many critics, including then-NBA commissioner J. Walter Kennedy, who said that Phoenix was "too hot", "too small", "too far away" to be considered a successful NBA market; this was despite the fact that the Phoenix metropolitan area was growing and the Suns would have built-in geographical foes in places like in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle.
After continual prodding by Bloch, in 1968 the NBA Board of Governors granted franchises to Phoenix and Milwaukee on January 22, 1968 with an entry fee of $2 million. The Suns nickname was among 28,000 entries that were formally chosen in a name-the-team contest sponsored by The Arizona Republic, with the winner awarded $1,000 and season tickets for the inaugural season. Suns was preferred over Scorpions, Thunderbirds, Mavericks, Tumbleweeds and Cougars. Stan Fabe, who owned a commercial printing plant in Tucson, designed the team's first iconic logo for a mere $200. However, they were disappointed with the results. In the 1968 NBA Expansion Draft, notable Suns' pickups were future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich and Dick Van Arsdale. Jerry Colangelo a player scout, came over from the Chicago Bulls, a franchise formed two years earlier, as the Suns' first general manager at the age of 28, along with Johnny "Red" Kerr as head coach. Unlike the first-year success that Colangelo and Kerr had in Chicago, in which the Bulls finished with a first-year expansion record of 33 wins and a playoff berth, Phoenix finished its first year at 16–66, finished 25 games out of the final playoff spot.
Both Goodrich and Van Arsdale were selected to the All-Star Game in their first season with the Suns. Goodrich returned to his former team, the Lakers, after two seasons with the Suns, but Van Arsdale spent the rest of his playing days as a Sun and a one-time head coach for Phoenix; the Suns' last-place finish that season led to a coin flip for the number-one overall pick for the 1969 NBA draft with the expansion-mate Bucks. Milwaukee won the flip, the rights to draft UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while Phoenix settled on drafting center Neal Walk from Florida; the 1969–70 season posted better results for the Suns, finishing 39–43, but losing to the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. The next two seasons, the Suns finished with 48- and 49-win seasons, but did not qualify for the playoffs in either year, did not reach the playoffs again until 1976; the 1975–76 season proved to be a pivotal year for the Suns as they made several key moves, including the offseason trade of former All-Star guard Charlie Scott to the Boston Celtics in exchange for guard
Lowell "Cotton" Fitzsimmons was an American college and NBA basketball coach. A native of Bowling Green, Missouri, he attended and played basketball at Hannibal-LaGrange Junior College in Hannibal and Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, he coached the Phoenix Suns three times, was named the NBA Coach of the Year twice, is credited as the architect of the Suns' success of the late 1980s and early to middle 1990s. Fitzsimmons won 1,089 games in his coaching career: 223 games at the junior college level, 34 at the Division I college level and 832 in the NBA. Born to Clancy and Zelda Fitzsimmons, "Lowell" was raised in Bowling Green, where he attended Bowling Green High School; the family of six moved to Bowling Green. There, his fourth grade classmates nicknamed him "Cotton" because of his hair, his father died. His mother raised three siblings. In high school, Bowling Green High School basketball coach James A. Wilson became a key figure for Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons said: “Coach Wilson had the biggest influence on me of any male adult.
He taught me the difference between principles. Rules are made to be bent, sometimes broken. Principles are something. My mother raised me, of course, but I think I looked up to Coach Wilson as a father figure and wanted to be like him.”With the 5'7" Fitzsimmons, Bowling Green High School twice advanced to the Missouri State High School Basketball Tournament. After graduating from Bowling Green High School, Fitzsimmons worked at a brick plant in nearby Farber, Missouri, he worked for two years to help support the family until his sisters graduated from high school, just as his older brother Orland had done. During those two years, Cotton played 80 game seasons for the brickyard basketball team, was a basketball referee for local high school games and was a baseball infielder on a Bowling Green town baseball team, serving as the team manager. On his first taste of coaching, he recalled, "It's not easy going to the mound as a kid and taking out your pitcher, who's 30." In 1952, Fitzsimmons enrolled at Hannibal-LaGrange College a junior college in Hannibal, Missouri.
Fitzsimmons became a junior-college All-American. He led the team to the NJCAA Tournament. Fitzsimmons left Missouri to attend Midwestern State University in Texas. There, he averaged 13.3 points over 82 games and scored a career 1,095 points, while helping the Mustangs to the NAIA Tournament quarterfinals in 1956. Fitzsimmons turned down an offer to play for the AAU basketball for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots and remained at Midwestern State after graduation to earn a masters’ degree in administrative education, he decided. After earning his degrees at Midwestern State, Fitzsimmons returned to Missouri, he accepted the position as head coach at Moberly Junior College in Moberly, Missouri in 1958, replacing Maury John. Fitzsimmons coached for nine seasons at Moberly, with a record of 223-59; when asked in his interview how long he planned to stay at Moberly if hired, "“I gave him the dumbest answer I gave anyone,” he said, “I told him I’d be there till we won two titles in a row.” Fitzsimmons proceeded to finish his tenure at Moberly with back-to-back NJCAA National Championships, in 1966 and 1967.
Fitzsimmons was hired by Kansas State University, serving as an assistant coach in 1967-1968 under Head Coach Tex Winter. There he learned the Triangle Offense from Winter, who left after the season for Washington and recommended Fitzsimmons to replace him. In 1968, he was named Head Coach at Kansas State. Fitzsimmons' first team at KSU finished 14-12. In 1969-1970, The Wildcats went a surprising 20-8, he was named 1970 Big 8 Coach of the Year and led the Wildcats to the Sweet Sixteen of the 1970 NCAA Tournament. Fitzsimmons moved to the NBA with the Phoenix Suns. In 1970, Fitzsimmons replaced Jerry Colangelo as Head Coach of the Phoenix Suns, it was Colangelo. At first Colangelo had asked about other possible candidates. Colangelo asked Fitzsimmons, “How would you like the job?” Fitzsimmons took the position and led the Suns to their first winning season, going 48–34 that season. The relationship between Colangelo and Fitzsimmons would be lengthy, as Fitzsimmons would serve the Suns in multiple capacities, including three tenures as Head Coach.
Fitzsimmons worked for Colangelo on one year contracts, without any discussion of compensation throughout their long tenure together. In 1972, Fitzsimmons became coach of the Atlanta Hawks, he was 140-180 in four seasons, with one playoff appearance. He returned to Phoenix to reside in 1975. According to Fitzsimmons, one of the main reasons he accepted a job as Hawks coach was the opportunity to coach Pete Maravich; the Hawks traded Maravich to the New Orleans Jazz in May, 1974 and Fitzsimmons was left with a young team and a rotating front office.“Presidents and GMs were flying out of here like paper clips.” He told Sports Illustrated. On May 30, 1976, Fitzsimmons was replaced by his assistant Bumper Tormohlen with the Hawks at 28-46. On August 4, 1976, Fitzsimmons was hired as player personnel director for the Golden State Warriors, to replace the late Bob Feerick, working alongside Al Attles, Coach and General Manager. Attles said,'I have a long standing relation with Cotton and have always admired and respected him as a person and evaluator of talent," There, the team ma