Eighteen summers ago, Mike Woodson was lured to Phoenix with the promise of brilliant blue skies, lush green fairways and a bottomless bucket of bright-white Titleists. He landed in a gymnasium, with a whistle in his mouth and a roster of N.B.A. rookies.
Coaching careers usually begin with some mix of ambition and intent. Woodson’s began with a double-cross, a mischievous misdirection play by his friend and mentor, Cotton Fitzsimmons.
Woodson, drafted as a scoring guard by the Knicks in 1980, had retired from basketball after a respectable 11-year career. He was happily building his real-estate portfolio in Indianapolis when Fitzsimmons — his former coach in Kansas City and Sacramento — asked him to help with the Suns’ summer-league team.