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On Swin Cash’s Hall of Fame weekend, her former coaches at UConn explain what made her great

The soon-to-be Hall of Famer is remembered for her “relentlessness,” the championships won at every level, and an unfortunate play her sophomore year.

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Swin Cash Celebrates photo by Bob Stowell/Getty Images

Of all Swin Cash accomplished in her playing career — two national titles at UConn, three WNBA championships — one play stands out among the rest. In December 1999, the Huskies were playing UCLA at Gampel Pavilion. On a missed free throw by the Bruins, Cash grabbed the rebound and immediately shot UCLA’s basket. It swished.

Cash explained what happened on that play to The Athletic recently.

“It was just a moment I let (Auriemma) get in my head,” she said. “Before UCLA went out to shoot free throws, he was lighting me up about not rebounding and not taking good shots. He was going nuts. I’m usually locked in, but when I walk out on the court, all I can hear is his voice in my head. When the ball came my way, for some reason, I just kept thinking, “Hold your shot and follow through.” If you look at the video, my shooting form is actual perfection on that shot.”

“She held the form,” Chris Dailey said incredulously on Thursday.

UConn pulled Cash shortly after and she came to the bench horrified. She was desperate to make sure her mother didn’t find out what happened.

“She sat next to me, she’s like, ‘CD, you’re not going to tell anyone, are you? You’re not going tell my mother, are you?’ I was like, ‘I think this is going to be a SportsCenter moment,’” Dailey remembered. “Not only was it SportsCenter, it was the circle, it was the arrow (further emphasizing the mistake)...I think they referred to on ESPN as like, ‘This is this season of giving but Swin took it to a new level, giving the other team two points.’”

It’s ironic among Cash’s many accomplishments during her Hall of Fame career, that one gaffe during a 42-point win in a season that ended in a national championship still remains one of her most recognizable moments.

But that’s not how Cash is remembered in the halls of the Werth Champions Center. When the Huskies’ coaching staff — all of whom either coached or played with Cash — spoke to the media on Thursday, a common word was used to describe her: Relentless.

“I’m not surprised at all (about Cash’s induction into the Hall of Fame) because of that toughness and that grit and that relentlessness that she has about her,” Geno Auriemma said.

“Just a relentless person,” Morgan Valley said. “Just the player on the court, she was relentless.”

That much was obvious from the moment UConn discovered her. Dailey went to see Cash play during her sophomore year and immediately called Auriemma to tell him about the new recruit.

“I was like, ‘Geno, you gotta see this kid.’ She comes from a blue-collar program. She was in an AAU program that was blue collar — her high school team (was blue collar),” Dailey said. “I didn’t know if she could shoot at all. All I said was, ‘That kid gets every rebound. Every rebound.’”

That work ethic and toughness defined Cash throughout her career but while it might’ve been the main aspect of her game, it wasn’t the only one.

“I always knew that there was something inside her that was really gritty and tough and hard-nosed,” Auriemma said. “But that’s not enough to take you to where she’s gotten — just being really tough and hard-nosed. You also have to be really smart and you have to be really talented and skilled. And you have to be able to do it for a long time.”

Cash was also a serial winner. Not only did she help UConn to championships in 2000 and 2002, she also captured a WNBA title with two different teams — the Detroit Shock in 2003 and 2006 as well as the Seattle Storm in 2010 — and earned two Olympic gold medals. Wherever Cash went, she won, which isn’t a coincidence.

“If you’re all about winning, and you do whatever you have to do to help your team win, all the other good things happen for you,” Dailey said.

That foundation was laid during Cash’s recruitment. When she was in high school, UConn hadn’t established itself as a powerhouse program yet — not like Tennessee, the other finalist for Cash. The Huskies also had a loaded class with Sue Bird, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams, and Keirsten Walters, so Cash wouldn’t be a standout star. It might not have been the ideal scenario for a young player looking to find individual success but if championships were the goal, there was no better place to be.

“Sue and Swin and (the other freshmen), they all said ‘We want to go there because the other [four] are going there,’” Dailey said. “They decided to come because they knew you have to be with good players to win.”

Whatever Cash’s legacy might’ve been before this weekend — a relentless player, a winner, or the one who once shot the ball (with perfect form) into the other team’s basket — she’ll soon have something new to be remembered for: Basketball Hall of Famer.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to imagine Cash being inducted. But for Auriemma, who still remembers the first day she stepped on campus, it still feels surreal.

“Who could ever predict this?” he said. “Of all the great players that are played here, of all the people that have come through here, when you walked on campus the first time, ‘Hey, that’s a future Hall of Famer.’ She’s come a long way, man.”