The winner of the 7th annual Spirit of Cotton Award is Raul Mendoza, coach of the Holbrook High School boys basketball team, in Holbrook, Arizona. Phoenix Suns Charities will honor Coach Mendoza when he and a group of well-wishers attend the Suns-Spurs game on Wednesday, April 25 at US Airways Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Over the past 33 years, Mendoza has coached high school boys basketball in the state of Arizona. He has recorded more than 600 wins in his career and has led his programs to numerous winning seasons, including a state championship in 2011. Mendoza is a six-time Conference Coach of the Year, two-time Arizona Coaches Association Coach of the Year and was named the 2011 Arizona Republic Small School Coach of the Year. In addition to his accomplishments on the court, Mendoza is regarded by his peers as one of the most respectable coaches in the game. He has established himself as a leader in the Holbrook community through his work and mentorship of the City’s youth, both on and off the court.
“I feel very fortunate to receive this prestigious award when there are so many equally deserving candidates,” said a humbled Mendoza. “This award was created in remembrance of a great man and to be associated with him tops almost everything I have accomplished in my career.”
The Spirit of Cotton Award, named in memory of former Suns Head Coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons, who passed away in July 2004, honors a high school coach in Arizona who consistently demonstrates the best qualities of a coach, educator, mentor and community leader.
“Coach Mendoza clearly is a successful coach, but he is so much more than that,” said JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons. “He has impacted the lives of his players and his entire community. He leads by example and that example truly reflects the Spirit of Cotton.”
As part of the award, Coach Mendoza will receive a commemorative plaque and custom ring designed by Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers. In addition, Phoenix Suns Charities will make a grant of $10,000 to Holbrook High School’s athletic department.
Fitzsimmons had been an integral part of the Suns since 1970, when he began his first of three stints as the team’s head coach. Over a 20-year NBA coaching career, Fitzsimmons won 832 games with four different franchises. He was twice honored as NBA Coach of the Year (1979 with Kansas City and 1989 with the Suns).