SWIN CASH won a WPIAL title at McKeesport Area High School, two national championships in college at UConn, three WNBA titles and two Olympic Gold medals. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Hometown star to be inducted into Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in September
Nearly every mother reading this article has changed their child’s diaper.
But for Swin Cash, the heart and soul of McKeesport who went on to become one of the most celebrated women’s basketball players in American history, she was changing her son’s diaper on March 31 when she got “the call.”
“This is John Doleva at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is this Miss Cash?”
“This is,” Cash replied, son in hand. “John, can you give me one second, I’m finishing changing my son’s diaper…”
Doleva couldn’t believe it. “You’re changing your son’s diaper? What’s your son’s name?”
“His name is Syer,” Cash responded.
“Oh, well you tell him that his mother is a Hall-of-Famer.”
And with those words, it was official. Swin Cash (whose name is now Swin Cash Canal) was elected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022, where her name, likeness and achievements will be forever embalmed in basketball lore, even with the men. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2021.
“So happy to make this call, congratulations to you,” continued Doleva, the president and CEO of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. “Well deserved, your overall career has been stellar, and you are a member of the class of 2022.”
Cash, 42, is currently the New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Development. Prior to the position with the Pelicans, she was Director of Franchise Development for the WNBA’s New York Liberty after her retirement to end the 2016 season.
SWIN CASH, a two-time national champion at UConn.
Regarded as one of the WNBA’s best players ever, Cash won three WNBA titles, two All-Star Game MVPs, and two Olympic Gold medals. She was named to the WNBA’s 20th and 25th Anniversary Teams. Cash played for 15 seasons in the WNBA after starring for the University of Connecticut Huskies, winning national titles there in 2000 and 2002. She was the No. 2 pick by the Detroit Shock in the 2002 WNBA Draft, bested only by her UConn teammate, Sue Bird. Cash won WNBA titles in 2003 and 2006 with the Shock, then was traded to the Seattle Storm in 2008 where she won another title (2010) with Bird. Cash later played with Chicago, Atlanta and the Liberty. When she retired, she was just the second player in league history to have 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
SWIN CASH also played for Team USA in the Olympics.
In all the cities Cash has called home, no other place in the world can claim her like McKeesport. Cash has continuously spoken fondly of her hometown, the numerous times over the years she’s returned to help local youth through her “Cash for Kids” organization, or, like in 2004, when she helped pass food out to residents while her Detroit Shock played an exhibition game in Pittsburgh.
“I think there’s an opportunity for her to be even more known off the court than on the court. There’s no one more competitive than her, with the drive that she has of playing at a certain level,” said Bill Laimbeer to ESPN. Laimbeer was Cash’s head coach in Detroit.
It was Cash’s superb abilities on the outdoor and indoor basketball courts in McKeesport that brought her all the attention. A stunningly impressive freshman at McKeesport Area High School in 1994, culminating with an epic performance in the 1998 WPIAL title game against North Allegheny. She scored 40 points, chased down 21 rebounds and blocked 10 shots for the McKeesport Tigers’ 69-52 win at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House. If you happened to be at that game, it’s a performance you’ll never forget.
But, as Laimbeer predicted, her reach is being felt now by her off-the-court activities. The mentorship, the leadership, being a wife and mother, being a role model for all young women, but especially young Black women.
SWIN CASH, homecoming queen at McKeesport Area High School
In an interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier in 2019, Cash discussed how she always reminds young people to “cross that bridge,” even when the going gets tough. Being from the city of bridges, Cash told the Courier moments after walking over one of Pittsburgh’s three “sister bridges”: “One of the things that kept coming to my mind is that life is like a bridge. You start out on one side, you never know what obstacles and things are on that side, but you’re always trying to push to get to the other side. And I think my life has been like that.”
SWIN CASH, right, shown here with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh’s Caster Binion, center, and Michelle Sandidge. (Photo by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
Cash grew up in low-income housing in McKeesport. She told the Courier she understands what many African American youth are facing in today’s world. It’s a never-give-up, “cross that bridge” attitude you have to have, she said.
“You’re always on one side trying to get to the other side, so what work are you putting in?” Cash said. “Pittsburgh has so many bridges, so as I kept walking I kept thinking, you’re always going to come to a situation where there’s a bridge in your life and you can make the decision, either fight to get over it, or are you going to stay put? I was always a fighter. I always used people’s negative, or motivation of why I couldn’t achieve something, to do it.”
SWIN CASH will be inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame the weekend of Sept. 9-10.