As a senior at I.M. Terrell High School, James Cash was voted “Most Likely To Succeed.”
And then some.
After high school, Cash became the first black athlete to play and receive a basketball scholarship in the Southwest Conference when he chose TCU, where he was a three-year letterman and led the Horned Frogs to the 1967-68 league championship.
On Monday, Cash will be one of nine new members inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame. The sold-out ceremony and luncheon will be at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth.
Joining Cash in the Class of 2014 will be Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Walter Abercrombie (Baylor), Otis Birdsong (Houston), Harold Solomon (Rice), George McMillion (SMU), Jill Sterkel (Texas), and Mark Johnson (Texas A&M) and Andre Tillman (Texas Tech).
Cash’s success didn’t stop on the basketball court, where he scored more than 1,000 career points and had his No. 54 jersey honored in 2011.
In addition to earning academic All-America honors, Cash received a Bachelor of Science degree in math from TCU along with a Master of Science degree in computer science at Purdue and a doctorate in philosophy in management information systems from Purdue.
He followed that by becoming the first black tenured professor at Harvard Business School and is a minority owner of the Boston Celtics. He retired from the Harvard Business School faculty in 2003.
By anyone’s definition, that’s success.
“Hopefully, lots more. You shouldn’t be surprised that there are still many places in the last few years where I’ve been the “first African-American” to join or experience something,” Cash said in an email to the Star-Telegram. “I’ve had a very blessed life, but there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done.”
Cash shared his views on receiving the SWC honor, the renovation of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum and more:
Where does this HOF award rank among your many awards? Very high; it relates to a very important time in my life and I consider it very special recognition.
Where were you and when did you receive the call to go into the SWC HOF? I was in New York City attending the NABC Gala and the NBA Draft. I received the news via an email.
What was your first reaction and who did you tell? I was very honored; my wife and daughter were in NYC with me so they heard about it first. As usual my assistant — Sharon Randall — probably knew about it before I did.
TCU honored your No. 54 jersey in 2011. How or why did you choose that number in your playing days at TCU? It was issued to me; I didn’t get to select a number. My favorite number is 13, which was my number in high school; that’s what I would have chosen. In those days you couldn’t wear numbers larger than “55” and generally 0-25 went to guards, 30-45 went to forwards and 40-55 went to centers.
You were a true student-athlete. Do you believe in role models and do you consider yourself a role model? As a visible athlete, you are a role model whether or not you think you are. Depending on who’s watching, everyone is providing a “model” of behavior, especially young children who are developing their personal priorities and belief systems.
When you come in for the luncheon, how long will you be in town and what’s your No. 1 eating place? My schedule is still being finalized. I hope to get in town early enough on Saturday to attend the TCU football game. I have appointments scheduled for Sunday and Monday, and will leave right after the luncheon. I have many favorites always [in] Fort Worth, but my local family usually requires at least one visit to Joe T’s while I’m in town.
Do you still hear from your former teammates? If so, who and where are they? Yes, we stay in touch and occasionally have reunions. I’m regularly in touch with Garvin Isaacs (Oklahoma City) and stay in touch via email with Bill Swanson, Carey Sloan, Rick Whittenbraker, [and] Randy Kerth, who are all in the greater Houston area; and Jeff Harp [and] Greg Rasor in the Fort Worth area. Tommy McGowan (somewhere in the South) and Tom Swift (California) have attended our reunions, but I don’t know where they live.
What are your thoughts on TCU’s $64 million renovation of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum? Long overdue, thrilled to see it; any first-tier university needs first-tier facilities.
Your bio says you are part-owner of the Celtics. How much ownership do you have and how often do you go to the games? I can’t convey a specific number, but it’s a minority position and I serve on the board. When I lived in Boston, I’d attend 35 of their 41 home games during the regular season. Since I moved to Florida, I only get to 10 home games and 5-6 road games.
Who is the best basketball team in the NBA today? Until proven otherwise, San Antonio is the best team. Unfortunately, I can’t name a specific player without getting into trouble with the league office.
Who is the best basketball player, college or pro, that you’ve ever seen? Oscar Robertson is the best individual player, Bill Russell is the best team player.
Did you have a mentor or someone that you consider played a major role in your success athletically and academically? My family, Coach Robert Hughes, several faculty members at TCU.
How far has sports come from a racial standpoint since you broke the color barrier in the old Southwest Conference in 1965? The old SWC and most professional sports would be unrecognizable to a young person today. The change can best be summarized by a question I heard from a young kid in Boston who was curious when the first white player made it into the NBA.
You are being inducted with an all-star cast. Do you know any of the other honorees personally? No, I don’t, but look forward to meeting them.
How many tickets did you need for the luncheon, which is sold out, and who are you bringing? I’m too embarrassed to convey the number of tickets I requested. Ten people, including some of my immediate family and Garvin Isaacs, will sit at my personal table. Several high school and college classmates, and teammates, will also attend.