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BY Mildred Europa Taylor, 3:30pm July 07, 2023,

Meet Morgan Cato, who made history as NBA’s first Black woman assistant general manager

Morgan Cato (Linkedin/NBA)

Growing up in Brooklyn with Caribbean and Southern roots, Morgan Cato wanted to study sports management in college but her father disagreed. “You will study business and you going to figure out the sports stuff on your own,” Cato’s dad, whose background is from St. Vincent, told her. He was right. Studying business at Stony Brook University while getting involved in sports there, particularly basketball has been fruitful as today, Cato is one of the few Black women trailblazers in sports.

Last year, the Phoenix Suns named her as Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations, making her the first woman of color to hold the Assistant General Manager title for an NBA team. The New York native made history in a traditionally male-dominated space after having worked with the NBA for 10 years, with her most recent position being Associate Vice President of Business Operations for NBA League Operations.

In that role, she looked at how to grow the game of basketball through strategic initiatives such as coaching and officiating development, basketball talent pipeline and related programs, the launch of the Basketball Africa League, and advocacy for women and people of color in basketball operations, the NBA said at the time.

“Anyone that I’ve talked to, this is really for us. This is for us. This is for people of color who thought they couldn’t be. This is for women who haven’t had a voice, just even being in the space. It’s so much bigger than me,” Cato said to Andscape last year after her appointment at the Suns.

More than 42.4 million immigrants live in the United States to pursue opportunities and dreams. Many of these immigrants believe in the American Dream and are optimistic about achieving it despite the political climate and threats they face almost every day. Cato’s grandfather moved from the Caribbean to the States many years ago to pursue the American Dream. He was a merchant Marine who had wanted to become a pharmacist before making his way to the States to better his life. Today, his story inspires many including his granddaughter Cato, who is influenced also by her Southern roots (her mother’s family grew up in a Southern Baptist church).

But her dad, who is good at money management, has had the biggest impact on her career. As a kid, Cato would watch him go into the city every day with a briefcase and a suit. “And he worked in business. And I said, ‘Oh, I want to do that.’ I knew I wanted to work in sports, but he is essentially my North Star,” Cato told Andscape.

Thanks to his advice that landed Cato in the sports business, she moved from New York to Phoenix some months ago to start her job as Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations at the Suns. Her role is “to lead the team’s strategy and business processes for basketball growth and performance with a focus on coaching development, player engagement and front office personnel operations,” said a statement at the time by the NBA, an organization she joined first as HR after a friend encouraged her to.

While at the NBA, she built rapport with Suns general manager James Jones and then-coach Monty Williams who didn’t think twice about hiring her after having worked with her for many years and seen her capabilities. In 2022 when Cato joined the Suns, she didn’t really understand the historical significance of her new role until congratulatory messages started trooping in after a tweet announced her appointment.

“That’s when I realized, ‘Oh this means something. This is bigger than me’,” said the Harvard Business School graduate, who is also experienced in professional talent development in investment banking, consulting, and nonprofit industries.

Having made history, Cato believes that there are many other talented individuals out there who have the ability to do her type of work. “We just need to create additional entry points so that talent is at the top,” Cato told AZ Family News.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 7, 2023


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