THE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR John Doleva was making what has become a routine phone call for him after more than 20 years in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
At the other end of the line was the vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, SwinCash.
Cash had cleared his schedule on March 28 to be available during the window Doleva was supposed to call. But as time went on, Cash realized that his youngest child, Syer, needed a diaper change. So Cash, who had been waiting years for this exact call, kindly put Doleva on hold.
When the call resumed, Doleva told Cash to let Syer know that his mother is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2022.
“This literally sums up my life right now,” Cash told ESPN as he recalled the moment. Cash, along with 12 other members, will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Since her playing career ended, Cash — a two-time NCAA champion and All-American, three-time WNBA champion and four-time All-Star, and a member of the WNBA 20th and 25th anniversary teams — – has been wearing different hats.
As the mother of 1-year-old Syer and 5-year-old Saint and the Pelicans’ vice president of basketball operations, Cash has juggled motherhood and her foray into the executive world of the NBA.
Throughout his career, Cash has set goals for himself. He set out to achieve those goals as an All-American at McKeesport Area High School in his hometown of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, which is 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. He did when he won national titles at UConn. And he did it during his 15-year WNBA career that also included several championship rings.
Along the way, Cash became one of the highest-ranking women in the NBA. As she enters her fourth season as Pelicans manager, her latest goal is to make sure this is just the beginning.
BEFORE HER CAREER AS A PROFESSIONAL PLAYER, Cash excelled at UConn under coach Geno Auriemma. Cash said Auriemma and her time with the Huskies prepared her for where she is today.
Auriemma, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, said that when Cash entered campus, her level of competitiveness set her apart from her teammates.
“She was trying to win every possession,” Auriemma told ESPN. “That was evident in high school. That was evident the first day of our practices when she came to Connecticut as a freshman. Of all the big girls who came, no one competed harder or played with more energy than she did.”
Cash was part of two national championship teams at UConn, in 2000 and 2002. His 2002 team featured Sue Bird, Tamika Williams, Asja Jones Y Diana Taurasi. That team went 39-0, with Cash winning Most Outstanding Player in the 2002 NCAA tournament. She capped her college career with a 20-point, 13-rebound performance in the national title game.
Cash was the No. 2 pick in the 2002 WNBA draft — Bird was No. 1 overall, Jones was No. 4 and Williams was No. 6 — heading to the Detroit Shock.
He led Detroit to WNBA titles in 2003 and 2006 and won his third and final championship with Seattle, and Bird, in 2010. Cash played with detroit, Seattle, Chicago Y Atlanta before finishing his career with new york liberty in 2016.
It was in New York that Cash began to work closely with Theresa Weatherspoon, who is now an assistant coach for the Pelicans. The two had clashed toward the end of Weatherspoon’s WNBA career, which ended in 2004, but a bond began to form when Weatherspoon was working with the Liberty as director of player development toward the end of Cash’s playing days.
In 2017, Cash was named Liberty’s director of franchise development in a position that gave her the opportunity to work with businesses and basketball operations.
“You knew if he ever held that executive position, he knew how to take a team to the next level,” Weatherspoon told ESPN. “Everyone has to fit into that culture. She got that. And then to bring that to the executive level, she’s doing a great job.”
While Cash began his managerial role with the Liberty, he also worked for Turner Sports as a television analyst. It was there that he met David Griffin, who had left the Cleveland Cavaliers’ management in 2017 and was working with Turner as a broadcaster.
During their time at Turner, Griffin and Cash watched games together in the waiting room. Griffin liked how Cash viewed the game and his ideas of bringing the family and team together.
“I told him, ‘If I ever do it again, I’ll call you,'” Griffin said. “And she thought she was joking.”
Griffin was hired by the Pelicans as executive vice president of basketball operations in April 2019. Less than two months later, Cash was officially on board.
“She has a very good eye for talent,” Griffin said. “I love the way she thought about the game. She’s a multiple time champion at multiple levels. She understands what that level of sacrifice is like. She’s good at realizing who’s going to be willing to make that sacrifice.”
FOR MONTHS, WEATHERSPOON he had been telling Cash, “That call will come, that call will come.” So when Cash finally got the call, he wanted Weatherspoon to know about it in person.
He found Weatherspoon near a row of seats between two practice courts on one of the Pelicans’ days off.
Cash asked her old friend and co-worker if she had any plans for September.
Weatherspoon, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019, didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t want to be anywhere but there,” Weatherspoon said, still thinking her friend’s question was hypothetical.
After a split second, everything clicked for Weatherspoon.
He jumped off the bench, threw a basketball across the gym and ran toward Cash, who was standing on the court. She wrapped her friend in a hug, a moment Weatherspoon called “true and genuine emotion.”
Weatherspoon continued to yell as he wrapped Cash in the Pelicans’ fleur-de-lis logo that sits in the middle of the practice court floor.
“That was great, I’m not even going to lie,” Cash said.
Weatherspoon will be one of five Hall of Famers onstage with Cash when she is introduced on Saturday, along with Auriemma, isiah thomas, Tamika Catchings Y Tina Thompson. And as he sees her friend continue to grow in the later stages of her basketball career, Weatherspoon knows “there are bigger things ahead.”
Cash now has her sights set on making history as the first woman to run an NBA front office.
“That would be the goal,” says Cash.
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Swin Cash continues to add to his Hall of Fame resume