Hall of Fame-bound Swin Cash changed the game at UConn

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As Swin Cash and the 2001-02 Connecticut Huskies put the finishing touches on one of the greatest seasons in basketball history, Lindsay Whalen of the University of Minnesota was among the onlookers.

Whalen — a multiple-time WNBA All-Star and teammate of Gold Medalist Cash — credited seeing that UConn team push her toward a Hall of Fame career.

“I went to see [the 2002 Final Four] in San Antonio as a sophomore in college, and seeing her, seeing her team compete, possibly the best women’s basketball team ever,” Whalen said at the introductory press conference for the class of 2022 of inductees into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

“With my eyes, I could see what was possible watching this team.

“Just being able to see from my own perspective, strong women doing great things, pushed me,” added Whalen, who is now the Minnesota coach.

Whalen is not alone. As the Huskies finished a perfect season with a national championship, winning every game in the NCAA Tournament by double digits, they inspired future generations of players and remain a benchmark for greatness years later.

The 2001-02 Huskies also transformed UConn itself.

The program has been a basketball juggernaut for so long that it’s easy to forget a time when UConn didn’t dominate the landscape. But that was the case when Cash arrived at Storrs to begin a remarkable career culminating in her 2022 induction into the Hall of Fame.

“If you look back…[the recruiting class] actually came in 1998 – they had won a national championship,” Cash said.

The Huskies, led by Rebecca Lobo, won the title in 1995, but the late Pat Summitt’s Tennessee Lady Vols remained at the top of the sport at the turn of the millennium. That changed with the Cash teams, and it revolutionized women’s hoops.

“It was at a time when it was time to develop the game, and the game was changing,” she said.

“It was going faster.”

Speed ​​and athleticism were the qualities that defined the Huskies from 2001-02, at every position.

Cash was part of a senior class in 2002 that included Sue Bird, Ashja Jones and Tamika Williams. Rounding out the starting five was Diana Taurasi, who graduated from UConn a few years later as one of the greatest players in college basketball history.

“It was probably the most complete team I’ve ever met,” Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said in a 2010 interview with the Connecticut Post.

“We probably had the best player in the country in every position.”

Twenty years later, the impact of this team is clear in the history built since. The 2002 national championship was the program’s third after the 1999-00 Huskies won the second.

From ’02 to ’16, UConn added eight more.

“The recruiting classes that followed did [the program] what it is today,” Cash said.

And the group continues to develop the game two decades after their defining moment as a team. Cash is a trailblazer as vice president of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. Williams (now Williams-Jeter) was hired as head coach at the University of Dayton last March. Taurasi is one of the hottest faces in women’s basketball, still starring in the WNBA and co-starring in the 2021 remake of Space Jam.

Then there are those the team has influenced who have made their mark elsewhere, like Lindsay Whalen.

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