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Women of the NBA: Swin Cash

Hall of Famer Swin Cash reflects on her basketball journey from her college days at UConn to the WNBA and now the front office with the New Orleans Pelicans.

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 given an opportunity to compete,” Cash said. “Competing for me is like breathing. Whether it’s competing in the classroom, competing on the court or competing with my family playing board games growing up – I always had this level of competition, and that’s what I’ve felt has separated me.”

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 the vice president of basketball operations and team development with the New Orleans Pelicans. She credits her laundry list of accomplishments to her competitive nature that she had as a player and now executive. 

“There is always going to be somebody who is a better shooter, a better rebounder or a better defender, but you can outwork anybody,” Cash said. “That’s the mentality I always had is that you were going to have to drag me off the court because I was going to compete at the highest level.”

Growing up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania with a big family (more than 75 first cousins), Cash’s competitiveness was rooted in her upbringing. As a young girl, she was constantly playing sports and competing with her family both on and off the court. She fell in love with basketball while playing in her neighborhood.

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

“That was it for me. I started having this dream 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 to young girls coming 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 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 Seattle Storm in 2010. 

“It’s short-lived. You go to the next season, and already want it again. I am 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 in 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 is no testimony,” Cash said. “Every test that I’ve been through in my life, whether it’s been injury, whether it’s been having to deal with loss in the family, whether it’s been having to be traded  – they are lessons that 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 get a tumor removed, and said there was a lot of speculation during that time if 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 were questioning. For 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 started 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 be a better leader.  I think I’m still growing. I’m still learning. If you’re not evolving,  you’re stuck in place and that’s never good from a leadership standpoint,” Cash said. “It’s helped me be more well-rounded in my approach and hopefully it’ll 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 to two young boys. She calls it a “balancing act 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 going to always be there for every moment. You have to be kind to yourself that if you’re in pursuit of this career –  there will be some sacrifices,” Cash said. “I don’t try to paint any type of rosy picture. There will be challenges, but if you’re confident in who you are, and you have a solid foundation built on your family, on your faith, what you believe in, how you feel, and how you bring your full self to work –  you’ll be okay.”

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

For her words of advice – Cash referenced what she said in her 2022 Hall Of Fame speech.

“I am 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 advocate for yourself and for others.”