At one point during a lengthy conference call Tuesday, a local newspaper writer described what the New Orleans Pelicans are becoming as a “brain magnet” – praising a front office now attracting some of the brightest minds in basketball. A list of noteworthy hires under David Griffin since mid-April grew again this week, with legendary women’s basketball player Swin Cash joining the Pelicans as the team’s new Vice President of Basketball Operations/Team Development.
Having already announced the additions of the well-respected Trajan Langdon and Aaron Nelson this offseason, Griffin noted that his desire to work with Cash dated back to their tenure at NBA TV, where both were studio analysts.
“Even before I had the opportunity of going back to a team, I talked to Swin about her goals and thoughts about potentially working in a team environment,” Griffin said of conversations with her at Turner Sports in Atlanta. “As soon as we had the opportunity (this spring) to reach back out to her to try to bring that to fruition, we did so. This is very much a concerted effort on our part, to continue to collect the best and brightest. A big part of our goal is to collect the best in class, as best we can, in every area… You’re starting to see us build something that can be very special here. Every hire we make is about our continued and sustained excellence, and the commitment that Mrs. Benson has made to this.”
Cash – a multi-time WNBA champion, WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist – said that seeing what Griffin has quickly begun building in the Crescent City was a major factor in her decision to join the Pelicans.
“Why I made the commitment to come here is I saw some really positive things happening,” Cash said. “What I know is basketball-wise, culture, people, that’s what attracted me to New Orleans. I can’t speak about things in the past, but what I can speak about is what’s being built right now. That’s why I’m excited to be a part of it, especially being on the ground level and building that up.”
Cash added that Griffin’s reputation around the sport helped influence the decision to work for him. Conversations she sought with various people in the league verified her already positive opinion of the longtime NBA executive.
“Your reputation precedes you. I obviously had an opportunity to work with Griff and get to know him, but I also do my homework,” Cash said. “When I made phone calls and asked around the league and talked to current players I know, people at the NBA office, there wasn’t one person who had anything bad to say about him. That’s the kind of person I felt and knew that he was, and other people who’ve worked with him confirmed it. That says a lot about him as a leader. If I’m going to go anywhere and uproot my family, go all-in, you want to have somebody who is not only inspiring you, but telling you that you have an opportunity to grow in this business. That was one of the reasons I’m here.”
Cash continued, laughing as she acknowledged the bit of awkwardness of discussing her new boss as she sat just a few feet away during Tuesday’s conference call.
“You can tell he’s probably turning red right now hearing me talk about him, but Griff is great,” she said. “I’m excited to work with him, Coach (Alvin) Gentry and the staff. It’s going to be fun.”
Referencing Cash’s exceptionally lengthy resume, Griffin noted that the focus of the Pelicans’ personnel decisions will continue to be on adding people with a history of success. Griffin and his recent hires have commonly expressed a goal for New Orleans of generated sustained excellence for the franchise.
“One of things that stands out to me about everyone we’ve hired is that winning is a frequency,” Griffin said. “And you don’t learn how to tune to it unless you’ve had to do it. She’s won championships at literally every level of basketball. Because of that, I know unequivocally that she knows that thought process and understands how to raise people to see that and feel that. It will continue to be a big driving factor in what we do.”