Q+A: Swin Cash

by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz

When the Chicago Sky traded the second overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft to Seattle in exchange for Swin Cash, the goal was to provide veteran leadership and a winning attitude to a team whose core players had a total of seven combined seasons in the pros and an average age of just 24.

Cash, in her 12th WNBA season, is giving Chicago exactly what it needs. Fifteenth on the league’s all-time scoring list with 4,506 points and 11th all-time in rebounding with 2,160 boards, Cash is currently fourth on the Sky in scoring (8.8 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.9) this season. The numbers for Cash are just extra—it’s the guidance that she provides to her young teammates that’s invaluable.

“She’ll give me her own scout so I’m not just hearing what the coaches are saying,” rookie Elena Delle Donne said of Cash. “I get it from a player’s perspective. She tells me people’s tendencies and she’ll also tell me what they’re going to do to me that game and try to help me prepare as best as possible.”

Cash’s contributions to the Sky are also appreciated on the sidelines.

“Man listen, this girl is like a coach on the floor,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “She’s a veteran player. When we call a timeout she’s talking to the players and she’s on message. But then it’s comfort—it’s just what she has.”

“We were playing New York and she played for Bill [Laimbeer] so she knows ‘C’ means flare,” Chatman explained. “She looks down there and sees Bill call this play and she gets a steal. That’s veteran stuff. I have to have her in the game. She reads situations and she’s just going to fight. She might not get it but she’ll be damned if you get it. That’s the kind of grit that every team needs.”

Swin Cash’s toughness propelled her to a storied basketball career that saw her win three WNBA championships with two different teams, two Olympic Gold medals and two NCAA Championships with the UCconn Huskies.

The four-time WNBA All-Star’s road contained more than its fair share of bumps. Cash chronicles her ups and downs in a new book titled Humble Journey: More Precious Than Gold. The book delves into Cash’s fight to overcome injuries and make it back to the Olympics, her contentious relationship with former Detroit Shock coach Bill Laimbeer, and her battle with cancer in 2007.

Given what Cash has had to overcome in her life, it’s easy to see why she plays with such tenacity on the court—she’s a fighter. Her full first name, Swintayla, means ‘astounding woman’ and there isn’t a more apropos title of the forward.

SLAMonline caught up with Cash to discuss the Sky’s push for the Playoffs, her foray into broadcasting, and her new book.

SLAM: How do you feel about the start the team has had this season?

Swin Cash: I feel really good. I like the way that we’ve come out and established the style of play that we’re going to have for our team. We had some little hiccups along the way but I think that those are lessons that we can learn from the games that we’ve lost. I like the direction that we’re headed in.

SLAM: How disappointing was it for you to fall short of missing the playoffs last year after you personally had such a long string of playoff appearances?

SC: It was very difficult for me. I didn’t like it at all. It didn’t sit well with me. I thought about it the whole offseason. I think there is an emphasis this year of not only making the playoffs but also making a run. I think we have everything in the locker room we need to get that done. We believe in each other, we believe in the process, and we believe in the system. We’re looking forward to making a run this year.

SLAM: Elena said that she’s grateful that you’re always in her ear giving her advice. What’s it been like playing with Elena and filling the mentor role?

SC: It’s great to see a young phenom like Elena. She has so many talents, and her size is a really rare gift. I just wanted to make sure that all the things that I’ve learned along the way from veterans that took me under their wing that I can pass that along to her. It’s one thing to be a great talent but it’s another thing to be a student of the game. I’m hoping as she develops and her game develops she becomes that completely.

SLAM: What made you decide to write Humble Journey: More Precious Than Gold?

SC: You know what, it was a lot of years that I went through a lot of ups and downs. A lot of kids and people looked at me and they only see the outside, the nice smile and the things you’re doing but they don’t understand the lessons you go through. For me Humble Journey was four years of life lessons that I wanted to share so people understand that I’m human and I go through things but it’s not about how you fall, it’s about how you get back up.

SLAM: What’s the reception been like for the book?

SC: It’s been amazing. Usually people come up and say, “Can you sign this or sign that,” but now people come up and say, “I’m going through cancer right now and I’m having to deal with the medical system and can’t go to the doctor I want to. Your adversity showed me I could push on. I can’t believe you’re still playing.” It’s amazing.

SLAM: You spent the offseason doing broadcasting. What drew you to broadcasting and is that going to be a part of your life after basketball?

SC: A few years back I covered the NBA side for two years and I took a hiatus from media and really focused on getting back to the Olympics. It’s four years that I crushed just playing basketball. This offseason was a lot of fun. I worked for ESPN, NBC, CBS and NBA TV. I really was like a free agent in the media industry [laughs]. That was really, really fun. It’s something that I want to pursue even after playing. Not only in sports but entertainment and lifestyle.

SLAM: What does this team have to do to not just make the playoffs but also go all the way?

SC: The one thing we have to do is continue to play defense. I think defensively we’re right there with some of the other teams in the league. Other than that we have to execute coach’s gameplan. It comes with a little bit of hunger. What’s that saying, “The hungry lion hunts best?” We have to stay hungry. The league is too good to take a step back and think you can take days off.

SLAM: After winning WNBA championships, Olympic Gold medals and NCAA Championships, what’s left to accomplish in your career?

SC: Seeing the joy on other people’s faces, helping them get there to have the same feeling that I did.