PRESIDENT AND CEO John Doleva was making what has become a routine phone call for him after more than 20 years with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
On the other end of the line was New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations Swin Cash.
Cash had cleared her schedule on March 28 to be available during the window that Doleva was supposed to call. But as time ticked away, Cash realized her youngest son, Syer, needed a diaper change. So Cash, who had been waiting years for this exact call, politely put Doleva on hold.
When the call resumed, Doleva told Cash to let Syer know that his mom is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2022.
Since her playing career ended, Cash — the two-time NCAA champion and All-American, three-time WNBA champion and four-time All-Star, and member of the WNBA’s 20th and 25th anniversary teams — has been wearing different hats.
As a mom to 1-year-old Syer and 5-year-old Saint, and the vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans, Cash has juggled motherhood and breaking into the NBA executive world.
Throughout her career, Cash has set goals. She set out to achieve those goals as an All-American at McKeesport Area High School in her hometown of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, which is 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. She did so when she won national titles at UConn. And she did so during her 15-year WNBA career that also included a few championship rings.
Along the way, Cash became one of the highest-ranking women in the NBA. As she enters her fourth season in the Pelicans’ front office, her latest goal is to make sure that this is only the beginning.
Auriemma, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, said when Cash stepped on campus, her level of competitiveness set her apart from her teammates.
“She tried to win every possession,” Auriemma told ESPN. “That was evident in high school. That was evident the very first day of our workouts when she got to Connecticut as a freshman. Of all the big kids that came in, no one competed harder or played with more energy than she did.”
Cash was a part of two national championship teams at UConn, in 2000 and 2002. Her 2002 team featured Sue Bird, Tamika Williams, Asjha Jones and Diana Taurasi. That squad went 39-0, with Cash earning Most Outstanding Player in the 2002 NCAA tournament. She capped off 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 went No. 1 overall, Jones was No. 4 and Williams No. 6 — and headed to the Detroit Shock.
She led Detroit to WNBA titles in 2003 and 2006 and won her third and final championship with Seattle — and Bird — in 2010. Cash played with Detroit, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta before ending her career with the New York Liberty in 2016.
It was in New York that Cash began working closely with Teresa Weatherspoon, who is now an assistant coach with the Pelicans. The two had squared off 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 the director of player development toward the end of Cash’s playing days.
In 2017, Cash was named the Liberty’s director of franchise development in a role that gave her a chance to work with both business and basketball operations.
“You knew that if she ever went into that executive position, she knew how to take a team to the next level,” Weatherspoon told ESPN. “Everyone has to fit into that culture. She understood that. And then to carry that over into the executive level, she’s doing a hell of a job.”
While Cash was beginning her front office role with the Liberty, she also worked for Turner Sports as an on-air analyst. It was there that she met David Griffin, who had left the Cleveland Cavaliers‘
During their time at Turner, Griffin and Cash watched games together in the green room. Griffin liked how Cash viewed the game and her ideas of unifying family and team together.
“I told her, ‘If I ever get back into it, I’m going to call you,'” Griffin said. “And she thought I was kidding.”
Griffin was hired by the Pelicans as the executive vice president of basketball operations in April 2019. Less than two months later, Cash was officially on board.
“She’s got a really good eye for talent,” Griffin said. “I love the way she thought about the game. She’s a multiple-time champion on multiple levels. She understands what that level of sacrifice looks like. She’s good at realizing who is going to be willing to make that sacrifice.”
FOR MONTHS, WEATHERSPOON had been telling Cash, “That call is coming, that call is coming.” So when Cash finally got the call, she wanted to let Weatherspoon know in person.
She found Weatherspoon situated near a row of seats between two practice courts on one of the Pelicans’ off days.
Cash asked her longtime friend and coworker if she had any plans come September.
Weatherspoon — who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019 — didn’t hesitate.
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“I don’t want to be nowhere but there,” Weatherspoon said, still thinking her friend’s question was hypothetical.
After a split second, it clicked for Weatherspoon.
She leapt off the bench, threw a basketball across the gym and sprinted toward Cash, who was standing on the court. She wrapped her friend in a hug, a moment Weatherspoon called “true, genuine emotion.”
Weatherspoon continued to yell as she wrapped up Cash on the Pelicans’ fleur-de-lis logo that sits in the middle of the practice court floor.
“That was dope, I’m not even gonna lie,” Cash said.
Weatherspoon will be one of five Hall of Famers on stage with Cash when she is presented on Saturday, along with Auriemma, Isiah Thomas, Tamika Catchings and Tina Thompson. And as she watches her friend continue to grow in the latest stage of her basketball career, Weatherspoon knows “greater things are ahead.”
Cash is now setting her sights on making history as the first woman to lead an NBA front office.
“That would be the goal,” Cash says.