What would have been the 90th birthday of a northeast Missouri native and one of the best coaches in NBA history is coming up this week.

Lowell "Cotton" Fitzsimmons, born in Hannibal and raised in Bowling Green, would have turned 90 October 7.

Fitzsimmons' road to the NBA began as a player, starring at Bowling Green High School, then at what was then Hannibal-LaGrange College (his jersey hangs in the rafters at the Mabee Sports Complex) and Midwestern State University.

He turned down the chance to play AAU basketball after college to get his Master's Degree in Administrative Education, because he wanted to become a professional basketball coach.

After successful coaching stints at Moberly Junior College and Kansas State University, Fitzsimmons was named coach of the Phoenix Suns in 1970.

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He coached in the NBA for 27 years, winning 832 games with Phoenix, Atlanta, Golden State, Buffalo, Kansas City and San Antonio.

Fitzsimmons was named Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1970, and was twice named NBA Coach of the Year.

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His boss during his time with the Suns, Jerry Colangelo, said about Cotton Fitzsimmons, "(He) embodied all things that are great about life and the game of basketball. His energy, passion and upbeat approach to everything impacted those that he touched in a positive and meaningful way."

About himself, Fitzsimmons said, “You're not going to make me have a bad day. If there's oxygen on earth and I'm breathing, it's going to be a good day.” 

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Cotton Fitzsimmons died in 2004. He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September.

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