Caroline Clark from Black Enterprise interviews Cynthia "Cynt" Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, is the first black woman to head an NBA franchise
One of the upsides of crises is that they can offer clarity, although it may take a while to see the forest for the trees. Since the NBA shut down on March 11 has Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall sheltering at home with Kenneth, her husband of 37 years, she has become much clearer about a few key things.
For example, dogs may be man’s best friend, but they’re not Marshall’s. After her daughter’s dog, Louie, hung out at her house for a few days—lounging in the backyard when Marshall wanted some air and on her treadmill when she wanted to work out—she was real clear: “Louie had to go,” she said, in an “On the Clock” interview from her now Louie-less home.
Also clear: “Kenny needs a hearing aid,” Marshall said of her husband. Normally on the road much of the time, she has discovered that there are multiple TVs on in the house, simultaneously, all day, at top volume. It’s something she plans to help her hubby tend to when they (and the NBA) finally come out to play.
Most of all, though, Marshall has become much clearer on what it takes to lead the Mavericks organization through a crisis. Having been hired by team owner Mark Cuban two years ago, in the midst of one of the worst sexual harassment scandals in sports history, Marshall’s crisis management muscles were already well-honed.
As a survivor of domestic abuse in her childhood home, colon cancer, several miscarriages, and the death of a child, Marshall knows what it is to face the unthinkable and come through it. But the global pandemic that has now shuttered all professional sports and most of the world posed a challenge unlike any she’d confronted before.
“During the first couple of weeks, you’re in shock,” she said. “You can’t believe people are dying. You can’t believe you’ve been forced into your house and told to stay.” But Marshall, who lauds NBA commissioner Adam Silver for his bold leadership in making the right choice to keep everyone safe, says she soon developed her own cadence for her organization and stunning clarity about what it would take for them to navigate the shutdown intact.
“I call it my new dot-com,” said Marshall, who has sent her customized prescription for enduring this crisis to her entire team:
Cynthia Marshall at the 2019 Women of Power Summit (Black Enterprise)
And plenty of it, for yourself, your family, neighbors, and colleagues. And especially for those hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Marshall said she has always been “obsessed with service” and with the current slate of needs being bigger and more critical than ever—especially in the black community—now is a time to double down on what you can do to help others, even from the confines of your home. Get creative, she urges, and give back!
Even within the rules of physical distancing, social and emotional connection is not only still possible, it’s more important than ever. People need to talk, to vent, to cry, to laugh together, to know they’re thought about and valued—and not just through texting. “Pick up the phone, use your voice, and reach out,” Marshall says.
“This one was big for me and it’s two-fold,” Marshall notes. “I have a compromised immune system due to my past with chemo, so I have to make sure I’m healthy and that I do all I can to keep others healthy too.” Crises, and the way to their solutions, generally demand compromise and flexibility and, often, collaboration.
Marshall insists this one is simple, even though Texas politicians, policymakers, and business leaders are not in agreement about when and how to end the mass quarantine and return to work. “We have to listen to the true experts and follow their guidelines,” says Marshall. “We were forced into our homes. We didn’t have a choice. But we do have a choice about how we come back out.
“If we don’t come out better after however many weeks it takes, we have missed an opportunity,” Marshall says. “That starts with using good sense and being in good health.”