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JERRY'S SECRET BATTLE PLAN

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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.

I've been saving Rambis for the last 20 games of the season and then the playoffs," Cotton said brightly one day. Amazingly, a few people even believed him. Even I was a little taken aback.

Rambis may be hurt right now. But even he has to admit his salary of $900,000 was the easiest big money anyone's ever made in the history of professional sports.

Let's talk about Cotton's coaching style for a minute.
Didn't you think it was strange that Cotton never had time to teach you a single out-of-bounds play that would help you get a shot off in the final seconds of a close game?

Didn't you ever wonder that, for all Cotton's years as coach, our Suns still couldn't throw the ball in from outside and set up a play that got us a decent shot at the basket?

This is the reality of what our plan was in running this operation under Cotton. He wasn't hired because he could teach players about Xs and Os on a board. His strong suit was salesmanship. His whole coaching technique here evolved into giving the ball to K.J. and letting him freelance.

When Kevin was good, the team was good. When Kevin was awful, as he was in the final game of the playoffs, we lost.

But on the whole, our strategy was a great business decision.
Cotton gave us acceptability. He was brought back here because that down-home twang of his sounds so good on television and radio.

It was always more important for Cotton to have a one-liner ready for Jude LaCava's radio show than it was for him to stay late at the gym running drills that no player enjoys anyway.

Cotton says he might like now to become a commentator on television. I wish him well. But I noticed last Sunday that he prefaced remarks about every coach in the NBA by pointing out that the coach in question had just turned in one of the best coaching jobs in the league.

The bland comments that made him so popular in the Phoenix market won't play for a national audience. If he wants to play in that league, Cotton will have to do his homework. Schmaltz won't sell in New York, Chicago and L.A.

As players, you understand how little most coaches in the NBA have to do with the outcome of the games. Even the fans understood that all that shouting Cotton did from the sidelines meant nothing. It was all part of the show.

The best players make too much money to sit on the bench. Cotton was able to cut down Tom Chambers' playing time only after Chambers' skills eroded.

Do you think that a Tom Chambers who could still score 30 points a night and earn $2 million a season would sit on the bench throughout an entire playoff game as he did against San Antonio?

I still don't know what Cotton was thinking about when he did that to Tom. Has he resented Chambers all these years? Or did he take this opportunity to get even by humbling him before a sellout crowd?

Our marketing position was always that if the fans liked Cotton then it follows they will like the Suns, too. We were fortunate enough to win most home games during the regular season. So it worked. We have been very successful, financially.

When Cotton came back to our franchise, our Suns fans were in a bad mental state. All they could think about was the drug scandal and the involvement of Walter Davis, one of our great stars of that day.

At tip-off time each night there were huge chunks of empty seats in Veterans' Memorial Coliseum. Even season- ticketholders weren't showing up. Corporate ticketholders were complaining they couldn't even give game tickets away.

This is something I never want to see again at a Suns game. No member of the board of directors wants to see it, either.

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Tom Fitzpatrick