She's got game.
And she's got time.
The game landed Swin Cash a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The time probably should land her a Hall of Fame spot, too, as she juggles her oh-so busy schedule of being a mom, wife and mentor all while handling her duties as vice president of basketball operations and team development for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Cash will spend Mother’s Day traveling to Chicago and preparing to sit in a gym all week at the NBA combine.
She’ll be 900 or so miles away from her husband, Steve Canal, and her two sons, Saint and Syr, on a day when moms all over the world are being celebrated.
She knows that comes with the job description when you're an NBA executive.
“I’m not going to sit here and paint this rosy picture,” Cash said. “Whenever I’m speaking or talking to other people, I tell them that it’s just about sacrificing. And if you’re willing to sacrifice, how much are you willing to sacrifice? My husband is an entrepreneur and we both played sports and understand teamwork, so we know what it’s like to be a team player and that helps us juggle it all.”
Sacrifice and hard work are what got Cash this far in the first place. It’s what helped her put all those basketball accomplishments on her resume — Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame; three-time WNBA champion; two-time NCAA champion at UCONN; two-time Olympic gold medalist; and all of the other accolades her two sons are too young to appreciate.
Saint is 5.
Syr is 2.
“Saint is starting to get a grasp of it,” said Canal, who has been married to Cash since 2015. “We will be watching TV and he’ll see her and say, “Oh, there’s mommy’ or ‘Hey, mommy won championships.’ He doesn’t understand fully, but he knows mommy did something special with a basketball.”
Canal and Cash met when she was in high school, the day before she chose UCONN over Tennessee. He got a chance to see up close and personal her evolution from basketball star to TV personality to NBA executive.
“It’s been pretty amazing to watch,” said Canal, an entrepreneur and author. “Swin is relentless when it comes to work. When she played, she went 120 percent. In this job, she has to pour so much into it because every player, every colleague is a different personality.
"Her priorities are top notch and it’s always been like that. She’s always put God first and then family, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. But she doubles down when in work mode to make sure results are always a priority.”
While he’s been impressed with seeing his wife’s career grow, he’s been even more impressed seeing her adapt to being a mother.
“As many books as there are out there, there is nothing that can prepare you for being a parent,” Canal said. “She embraced her new chapter right away. For some people, when they retire from playing, you see the impact. But I never saw a moment where there was a lapse of her saying, 'What do I do now?'
"For a woman, that is one of your most vulnerable moments because your body is changing. She went straight into motherhood and embraced it and was so good with it.”
Cash credits much of that to her mother. She saw the sacrifices Cynthia Cash Smith made while raising her and her siblings in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.
“My inner strength, my toughness comes from my mom,” Cash said. “I think about all my mom did with less resources than I had. So sometimes I’m saying I don’t have room to complain about anything. My mom went through a lot and sacrificed a lot.
"She always had real conversations with us. She had me very young. I didn’t get to have the life that Saint and Syr had. So my toughness comes from my environment. When you think that you can’t get through something or you think there is a challenge, how do you fight your way through it?”
The one lesson from her mom that sticks with Cash the most is a simple one. It applied to basketball and life.
“There is always somebody in the world who can shoot better than you or who can play better than you,” Cash said. “But you always have the ability to not let anyone outwork you. So that’s always in the back of my mind.”
It's what made Cash so competitive, a trait that has spilled over from the basketball court to motherhood.
When she races Saint, she never lets him win.
“She is going to smoke him every time, just so he learns a lesson,” Canal said. “She’s so competitive, it’s hilarious. But in a loving way.”
Saint has inherited that same spirit. When the family gets in the car, he is always competing to make sure he is the first one to fasten his seat belt.
But Cash isn’t just about winning herself. She wants everyone to win. It’s the reason she is hosting a summit for women in New Orleans from June 28-30. Fittingly, the summit is called “She’s Got Time,” something that Cash knows all about.
“I wanted to dive into it and talk to the everyday woman,” she said. “You want to have a career an you want to have a family and people are always wondering how are you going to have time and find the balance. So I came up with the name 'She’s Got Time.'
"So far, there are 29 speakers from all across the world of sports scheduled to speak at the summit. Speakers range from Saints owner Gayle Benson to Meka White Morris (an executive vice president with the Minnesota Twins) to give-time Olympic champion Sue Bird.
“We have a wide net. We want women of color and other ethnicities to feel comfortable and have real authentic conversations in our space. That’s important for us to have that voice. I wanted to do something that can impact the most amount of people in the industry. It’s a resource-based ecosystem. Women are starting to see true levels of resources and we just want them to have a support system in this very male dominated space of sports that we’re in. How do we change the game in an authentic way?”
For Cash, that’s what her life is all about — being a game-changer.
“Not just on the court, but in life,” she said. “It’s just who I am.”
The basketball part, of course, comes easily. She’s played the game pretty much her whole life.
The life part — well, at least the motherhood part — is still fairly new.
“I have to be very intentional,” Cash said. “I think there is something innate and beautiful about being a woman and what motherhood feels like and looks like. There have been times when my husband looks at me and says, ‘I don’t even know how you’re doing all this right now.’ He may be having a stressful moment.
"Moms are like the last line of defense sometimes, so we don’t get to have those stressful moments. When you have a child, your advocacy goes to another level. It lit a fire under me. My fire is making sure that I can do everything humanly possible while I still have breath to make it easier for my kids.”