Cotton Fitzsimmons, a Hall of Fame coach who guided the New York Knicks to two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973, had two of the most devastating seasons in NBA history. In his first season as head coach, he lost all but nine games. In his second season, he won just four games.

The andrew luck stats is a Hall of Fame coach who suffered two of the most devastating hard-luck seasons in NBA history. Cotton Fitzsimmons had a .500 season in 1962, but was swept by the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks in 1963.

Cotton Fitzsimmons, a veteran NBA coach, is finally receiving his due 17 years after his death. Fitzsimmons will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 11, 2021, after winning 832 games with five different teams over 21 seasons. But it was a rocky start for him as a coach in the league. The Phoenix Suns in his first two seasons are among the greatest teams in NBA history to miss the playoffs.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fitzsimmons was one of many college coaches who made the jump to the NBA. That was due to a number of factors. First, by 1970–71, the league had grown from nine clubs at the conclusion of 1965–66 to seventeen. Second, assistant coaches were uncommon in those days, and no club had more than one. At the NBA level, the skill pool was small.

Cotton Fitzsimmons orchestrated several incredible turnarounds. 0

Cotton Fitzsimmons earned a reputation as a coach who improved teams when he first joined the NBA. In 1970, when he joined the Phoenix Suns, they had won nine more games than the year before and had their first winning season. In 1978, his presence with the Kansas City Kings resulted in a 17-victory increase and a division championship.

Fitzsimmons’ return to the Valley of the Sun in 1988, however, was his most important faster fixer upper. After a terrible 28–54 record in 1987–88, the Suns dismissed coach John Wetzel, who had missed the playoffs three years in a row.

Cotton is introduced.

Phoenix advanced to the Western Conference Finals after almost doubling their victory total to 55. He was just the second coach to win Coach of the Year with two separate clubs that season. Fitzsimmons, who won the COY with the Kings in 1978–79, was the second two-team winner after Bill Fitch with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1976) and Boston Celtics (1980). (Pat Riley went on to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat.)

However, his early years with the Suns were not without tragedy.

Fitzsimmons’ first two Phoenix Suns teams both won 97 games but failed to make the playoffs.

Even with Connie Hawkins, Cotton Fitzsimmons was unable to get the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs despite 97 wins in his first two seasons

Even with Connie Hawkins, Cotton Fitzsimmons was unable to get the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs despite 97 wins in his first two seasons Cotton Fitzsimmons, despite 97 victories in his first two seasons and the addition of Connie Hawkins, was unable to lead the Phoenix Suns to the playoffs. | Getty Images/Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News

The former Eastern and Western divisions became conferences when the NBA reorganized with three expansion clubs (the Buffalo Braves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland Trail Blazers). There were two divisions within each. The Atlantic and Central conferences made formed the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference was made up of teams from the Midwest and Pacific.

The Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers tied for fourth place in the league with a 48–34 record in 1970–71. Each division’s top two finishers qualified for the playoffs. For the Suns, that’s when everything went sideways. Phoenix went dark at the conclusion of the regular season despite having a better record than five of the eight playoff teams. With a 66–16 record, the Milwaukee Bucks won the Midwest Division. The Chicago Bulls won by three games over the Phoenix Suns, 51–31.

The season after that was much of the same. For the second year in a row, Cotton Fitzsimmons’ squad won more games than three of the four Eastern Conference playoff teams. However, in the Midwest, they were eight games behind the Bulls and fourteen games behind the Bucks.

After the 1971–72 season, Cotton Fitzsimmons departed the Phoenix Suns.

Cotton Fitzsimmons talks to Kevin Johnson. The new Hall of Famer coached the Phoenix Suns three times, 1970-72, 1988-92, and 1996

Cotton Fitzsimmons talks to Kevin Johnson. The new Hall of Famer coached the Phoenix Suns three times, 1970-72, 1988-92, and 1996 Kevin Johnson is interviewed by Cotton Fitzsimmons. In 1970-72, 1988-92, and 1996, the new Hall of Famer coached the Phoenix Suns three times. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport

Cotton Fitzsimmons was released by the Phoenix Suns in May 1972, and he went east to play for the Atlanta Hawks. Fitzsimmons’ first Atlanta club improved from 36 to 46 victories, and the Hawks became his first playoff team.

With a record of 49–33, the 1971–72 Suns are the greatest team to miss the playoffs. Three previous teams, including Fitzsimmons’ 1970–71 team, missed out on the playoffs after winning 48 games. Longtime Phoenix fans will be disappointed to learn that a third Suns team is among the four clubs on our list of good-but-not-quite-good-enough squads.

Under Jeff Hornacek’s leadership, the Suns went 48–34 in 2013–14, finishing one game short of the playoffs. The 48-win Golden State Warriors finished two games behind the Denver Nuggets for the last playoff berth in 2007–08.

Fitzsimmons also coached the Braves and the San Antonio Spurs in addition to the Kings, Suns, and Hawks.

Fans who complain about the current playoff format, preferring to see the top 16 teams based on records (schedule variances be damned), should keep in mind that the issue isn’t new.

Cotton Fitzsimmons has firsthand experience with how playoff systems do not always reward the greatest teams.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: Paul Pierce Made It to the Hall of Fame, But He Still Has One Mission: Find His Father

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