In Cash, Storm Adds Proven Winner
Swin Cash won during her college career, helping lead the University of Connecticut to a pair of NCAA championships. She has won in the WNBA, playing for two WNBA titlist Detroit Shock teams. And she has won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics for the U.S. National Team. Now Cash wants to bring that same success to Seattle Storm, who acquired Cash from the Shock Tuesday in exchange for the fourth overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
"That's what I am. I'm a winner," Cash said as she was introduced to the Seattle media at a press conference at KeyArena. "I don't know any other way. I don't like losing."
That mindset, and the team success that has accompanied it, made Cash an attractive target to Storm Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Brian Agler. Agler is convinced it is no coincidence that Cash has been a part of so many tremendous teams.
"Swin's played on arguably the best college team ever to play the one year in Connecticut there, she's played on some great WNBA teams, played on great Olympic teams," said Agler. "There's a reason why she's on those teams; because she brings the intangibles to the game - the leadership, the winning mentality, the extra effort and also that defensive mindset."
When he was introduced as the Storm's new head coach on Jan. 9, Agler outlined a vision that was highlighted by improvement on defense and more athleticism on the wings. Adding Cash to play small forward is a key step toward achieving those goals.
The 6-1 Cash gives the Storm a physical presence at small forward the team has not hand since 2004, when Sheri Sam started at the position. That season, the Storm had the league's best defense on a per-possession basis and ultimately won the championship. The Detroit teams that featured Cash annually ranked amongst the WNBA's best on the defensive end, and she takes pride in her work at that end of the floor.
"I'm not the biggest player on the floor; I'm not going to be blocking a million shots," Cash said. "But the intangibles, like (Agler) said - being able to double-team, being able to read, getting steals, getting in the passing lanes, getting loose balls, those are the type of things you have to really build on."
Cash is more than just a leader and a defender, however. After drafting her with the second overall pick in the 2002 Draft behind Bird, the former UConn teammate with whom she will now be reunited, the Shock built around Cash. The team came together more quickly than anyone expected, and in 2003 Detroit won the WNBA championship. Cash was the team's leading scorer and was in the midst of an even stronger season in 2004 before tearing her ACL late in the year.
The injury and the subsequent addition of guard Katie Smith changed Cash's role in the Shock offense, but she averaged 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season as Detroit advanced to the WNBA Finals for the second straight season and nearly won a third championship.
"I like all the intangible things - the chemistry aspects, the defensive presence that she's going to bring. But I also think she's a challenge at the offensive end," Agler said. "She's not the easiest person to defend because she plays so hard and she runs the floor and she can rebound. It's going to be our job to put her in her sweet spot offensively.
"I like all those things and that's why I'm so excited about it, because I see good things happening when she gets to be a part of the team."
After Game 5 of last fall's WNBA Finals, when the Shock was beaten by the Phoenix Mercury, it quickly became clear that Cash's Detroit career was at its end. Her relationship with Shock Head Coach Bill Laimbeer had suffered and a fresh start appeared to be in order. At season's end, Cash took time away from basketball to clear her mind and prepare for the change.
Detroit opted to core Cash, who would have been an unrestricted free agent, with an eye toward trading her. Cash's agent helped investigate possible destinations and the Storm quickly proved a fit. The fourth overall pick, which the Storm added from Atlanta earlier in the month in a deal for incumbent small forward Iziane Castro Marques and the No. 8 pick, proved enticing to the Shock, allowing the trade to come together.
"We wanted to find somebody with that pick that could come in and impact our team," explained Agler. "At the same time, we knew that we needed some veteran play. We really feel like we've covered both bases there with this move."
When the Storm emerged as a possibility for Cash, she turned to her close friends in the WNBA community to find out more about Agler. Ruth Riley, a long-time teammate in Detroit, and Becky Hammon both provided insight after playing for Agler last season when he was an assistant in San Antonio.
"He has a vision for this team. You have two cornerstones to really build off of in a point guard like Sue and Lauren Jackson. He knows what it takes to really build a winner. I was impressed with what he did in San Antonio. That let me know that this is a coach who puts players in the right positions to be successful. That's what I was looking for."
Meanwhile, Agler and the Storm staff was doing its own research into Cash. What Agler heard confirmed what he already believed about the value of Cash's leadership, her intangible assets and her role in her teams' success.
"Swin's been a captain of that team for six years in Detroit," Agler said. "I know people that know her real well who speak extremely highly of her, and that means a lot to me when you do the research - former teammates, former coaches. We did a lot of research and everything came out real positive that way.
"The one comment that was made to me about Swin that has stuck in my mind for quite a while here going through this process was from Van Chancellor, who coached her in the Olympics. He said the one thing I remember about Swin Cash is we played a college team, we're up by 50 points and she's diving for a loose ball going out of bounds with 10 seconds left in the game.
"Those are the type of people and players we need on our team right now."