Sunnyslope High School basketball coach honored with Spirit of Cotton Award

- A Valley high school coach had a big surprise Thursday, courtesy of the Phoenix Suns.

The coach, Sunnyslope High School's head varsity basketball coach Ray Portela, received the 13th annual Spirit of Cotton Award. The award was named after the legendary former Suns coach Cotton Fitzsimmons.

"He would have been so thrilled," said Cotton Fitzsimmons' widow, Joann.

"I am shocked now," said Portela. "I'm sure there are another great candidates. The fact I received this award it just means the world to me."

Each year, the award goes to an outstanding Arizona high school coach, honoring them for their efforts on and off the court. Fitzsimmons' widow says the pick was an obvious one.

"Coaching high school is really a labor of love, and I think its great to give it to a younger coach to make him know that people are appreciating what he is doing," said Joann.

Portela led the team to back-to-back state championships in this year and last year. However, it wasn't all about the wins. It was also about Portela's passion for the students.

"We're not in this for the wins and losses," said Portela. "We're in this to kind of make a difference in the kids' lives."

The Phoenix Suns Charities also awarded Portela a $10,000 grant that, according to Potela, will go toward the Athletic Department.

"It's Cotton Fitzsimmons. What a man. What a legend," said Portela. "So my name on something he represents, it means the world to me."

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