Women in the NBA: Swin Cash

WNBA legend Swin Cash is currently the Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development for the Pelicans.

Swin Cash was born to compete.

Whether it’s a game of Monopoly or the WNBA Finals – you can guarantee Cash will give it her all – and likely win.

“I wasn’t afforded a life where everything was always easy, but I was afforded an opportunity to compete,” Cash said. “Competing for me is like breathing. Whether it’s competing in the classroom, competing on the field, or competing with my family playing board games growing up – I’ve always had this level of competition and that’s what I’ve felt set me apart.”

Cash is a three-time WNBA champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, four-time WNBA All-Star, two-time NCAA champion, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee (Class of 2022) and now vice president of basketball operations and team development at the New Orleans Pelicans. She credits her laundry list of accomplishments to her competitive nature, which she had as a player and now executive.

“There’s always going to be somebody who’s a better shooter, a better rebounder or a better defender, but you can outplay anybody,” Cash said. “That’s the mentality I’ve always had is you’re going to have to pull me off the field because I had to compete at the highest level.”

Growing up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania with a large family (more than 75 first cousins), Cash’s competitiveness was ingrained in her upbringing. As a youngster, she constantly played sports and competed with her family both on and off the field. She fell in love with basketball while playing in her neighborhood.

Cash was 17 when the WNBA first launched in 1996. She remembered watching the infamous “We Got Next” commercial featuring basketball stars Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes when she decided she wanted to pursue basketball professionally.

“That was it for me. I started dreaming that hey, I could really do this as a career. The WNBA came along and created heroes, and I could see myself being one of those heroes for young girls, that came behind me,” Cash said.

Cash was an All-American at the University of Connecticut and helped lead the Huskies to two championships in 2000 and 2002.

She entered the 2002 WNBA Draft and was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Shock. Soon after, Cash led the Shock to their first WNBA Championship in 2003. Hungry for that championship feeling again, Cash won another title with Detroit in 2006 and one more with the Seattle Storm in 2010.

“It’s short-lived. You go to the next season and already want it again. I’m so blessed to experience it multiple times. It’s not always just the end of getting the trophy, it’s the journey. It’s the relationships. It’s in the locker room. It’s the bus rides. It’s the friendships, it’s the banter. It’s the camaraderie. That’s what made those championship runs so special,” Cash said.

Despite all the positives, Cash also credits the lows she went through for helping her become the person she is today.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a failure. I don’t look at things as failures. I look at them as lessons. Life lessons. Without a test — there’s no testimony,” Cash said. “Every test I’ve been through in my life, whether it’s been an injury, whether it’s been having to deal with loss in the family, whether it’s been having to be traded – these are lessons that have made me who I am today.”

One of her biggest challenges came in 2007 when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Cash had to have surgery to remove a tumor and said there was a lot of speculation during that time as to whether she would be able to return as the same player she was before.

“After going through that, I was able to come back and win another WNBA championship (with the Seattle Storm in 2010), win another All-Star MVP and be able to have the level of success that some people questioned. To me, that’s the test and the testimony,” Cash said.

After Cash announced her retirement from the WNBA in 2016, she transitioned to broadcasting as a studio analyst for MSG Networks, then eventually began working in the front office for the New York Liberty as the director of franchise development. She is currently the vice president of basketball operations and team development for the Pelicans.

“I think my exposure to all levels of this business has helped me become a better leader. I think I’m still growing. I’m still learning. If you don’t develop, you’re stuck in place, and that’s never good from a management standpoint,” Cash said. “It’s helped me become more well-rounded in my approach, and hopefully it will help me continue to grow and help those around me.”

Her favorite part of the job now is helping players realize their full potential both on and off the court. Her goal is to see the Pelicans raise a championship banner.

In addition to her demanding NBA career, Cash is also the mother of two young boys. She calls it a “balance between motherhood and her demanding job.” When Cash is home, she makes it a priority to drop her boys off at school.

Swin Cash was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.

“You have to understand that you’re not always going to be there every moment. You have to be kind to yourself that if you’re chasing this career — there’s going to be some sacrifices,” Cash said. “I’m not trying to paint any kind of rosy picture. There will be challenges, but if you are sure of who you are and you have a solid foundation built on your family, on your faith, what you believe, how you feel, and how you bring your full self to work – you’ll be fine.”

While her accomplishments already seem endless – we haven’t seen it all from Cash yet. She looks set to continue competing as an executive, championing diversity of thought and people in the NBA and supporting more young women to follow in her footsteps.

For her advice – Cash was referring to what she said in her 2022 Hall Of Fame speech.

“I’m confident in who I am and what I bring to the table day in and day out,” Cash said. “You have to be your authentic self. You have to have confidence. You have to be unapologetic in your pursuit of where you’re trying to go and continue to speak up for yourself and for others.”

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