Sunnyslope High School’s Ray Portella (left of the Gorilla), who coaches the boys’ varsity basketball team, is congratulated on his Spirit of Cotton Award by (front row, from left): Tim Matteson, Sunnyslope’s assistant principal and athletic director; Jim Pittman, chief Financial officer of the Phoenix Suns; Kevin McCabe, AZ Preps Live; JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons; Sarah Krahenbuhl, executive director of Phoenix Suns Charities; and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, as well as members of the varsity basketball team (submitted photo).

Phoenix Suns Charities surprised Ray Portela, head coach of the Sunnyslope High School boys’ varsity basketball team, with the 13th annual Spirit of Cotton Award, on April 5 at the high school.

Members of Portela’s team as well as the school’s administrative staff were joined by the Gorilla, plus Sunnyslope High School’s band and cheerleaders, in surprising the coach with his award.

The “Spirit of Cotton Award” honors legendary former Suns Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons by annually recognizing an outstanding Arizona high school coach for his or her leadership, dedication and service to the community in helping guide and mentor student-athletes. Portela, a graduate of Sunnyslope High School, led the team to back-to-back state championships in 2017 and 2018 and earned 2018 Arizona Varsity 5A State Coach of the Year honors.

Portela was selected not only for his remarkable accomplishments at Sunnyslope High School, but also for his devotion and passion for his students and athletes for the past 15 years.

Portela also was recognized during a special on-court presentation with JoAnn Fitzsimmons, wife of the late Cotton Fitzsimmons, at the Suns-Golden State Warriors game on April 8, where he received a $10,000 grant to use in the school’s athletic program and a custom ring designed by Coffin & Trout Fine Jewelers.



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