By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Memo: To our Phoenix Suns
From: Chairman Jerry
I thought I would leave a copy of this note in each of your lockers. It will give you some insights into the business side of professional basketball. I want you to think about these things while awaiting your next season.
As you are aware, Cotton Fitzsimmons will no longer be spokesman for our team. I deliberately use the term spokesman" because, as players, you long ago realized that Cotton was more a front man than a coach.
There are many corporate reasons for making a coaching change. Partly, it's simply time to have a new face. It's that simple.
This aspect has not been addressed by local media because it is their function to express concern only about wins and losses.
To me, they displayed shallow thinking in their reaction not only to that great double-overtime game against the Portland Trail Blazers, but also to the entire series.
Mark Emmons wrote: Some losses are easier to shrug off than others. Some are impossible." David Casstevens wrote: What a game. What a letdown." Mike Tulumello thought it necessary to write: Consider in the fall of 1989, the Suns took to camp a group of players that included Armon Gilliam, Eddie Johnson and Michael Williams... . The three players in their place are Kurt Rambis, Jerrod Mustaf and Negele Knight. None played a minute in the playoffs." Peter Vecsey revealed in USA Today that Cotton told him Tom Chambers doesn't even try to guard his man on defense to help out his teammates. Cotton had a tendency to talk more freely when he saw the New York media. He seldom realized their stories would get back here to Phoenix.
Keeping Grant was Cotton's idea. He thought the fans would like to see a tiny man playing in the National Basketball Association. Cotton always did have a circus approach to things.
Steve Benson did two vicious cartoons. One accused our team of choking" against Portland. His second used the image of our gorilla mascot to denigrate us publicly.
Once and for all, understand there is nothing racist intended by our use of The Gorilla" as a mascot. We only use it as something to entertain our white fans during time-outs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had it all wrong when he tried to strangle our gorilla underneath the stands one night.
And the writers keep complaining that neither Andrew Lang nor Mark West can catch, shoot or dribble the ball. So what, I say. Andrew and Mark are learning and their salaries fit nicely under the cap.
But since you are members of our extended Suns family, I shall take this opportunity to give you a fuller explanation than the media can possibly give.
First of all, here is a dose of reality. I want you to think carefully the next time you speak to your agents about demanding a rewrite of your contract.
Look at one of those television tapes of this year's playoff games. How many black faces did you see in the audience?
With everyone else, management can back up the truck and conduct a solid moving job. The fans won't know the difference. We have moved a lot of stars in the past. No one complained or missed them. We moved Walter Davis. We moved Larry Nance. There was never a murmur.
Paul Westphal will be the coach for now. He will run things a little differently. For one thing, he was a highly skilled player in this league for years-an all-star. He will teach you to run an out-of-bounds play. He will see to it that the game doesn't depend solely on Kevin Johnson.
Westphal won't be nearly as effective on radio and TV as Cotton. He won't be as popular.
And there are two things I hope he doesn't do. For one, I hope he doesn't sign a deal with Hanny's to supply his clothes to wear on the sidelines as Cotton did.
Secondly, he will have little credibility if he continues to tell us in that television commercial that Whataburger makes the best hamburgers.
We will miss Cotton in the marketing department. He was a real drum beater. He was like the carnival barker who tells people what wonders there are to see if only they will buy a ticket and come inside the tent.
Cotton made every fan feel good about our Phoenix Suns.
When he talked about them, he sounded like a benevolent scoutmaster. He spoke of K.J. and Andrew, Tom and Horny, and even his best friend Rambis, who he later buried so deep on the bench that people thought Rambis was on the disabled list.