Get to Know Morgan Cato, NBA’s First Black Woman Assistant General Manager

Morgan Cato, who grew up in Brooklyn and has Caribbean and Southern roots, wanted to study sports management in college, but her father was opposed.”You’ll study business and figure out the sports stuff on your own,” Cato’s father, who is from St. Vincent, informed her. He was correct. Studying business at Stony Brook University while participating in sports, notably basketball, has paid off, as Cato is now one of the few Black woman trailblazers in sports.

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She was hired Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations by the Phoenix Suns last year, making her the first woman of color to hold the position for an NBA team. After working for the NBA for ten years, the New York native made history in a historically male-dominated field, most recently as Associate Vice President of Business Operations for NBA League Operations.

According to the NBA, in that role, she looked at how to grow the game of basketball through strategic initiatives like 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.

“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 their ambitions and opportunities. Despite the political climate and threats they confront virtually every day, many of these immigrants believe in the American Dream and are optimistic about realizing it. Cato’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean many years ago to pursue the American Dream. He was a merchant marine who aspired to be a pharmacist before moving to the United States to better his life. His tale continues to inspire many people today, including his granddaughter Cato, who is affected by her Southern origins (her mother’s family grew raised 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.

Cato went from New York to Phoenix a few months ago to begin her job as Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Suns, thanks to his suggestion. 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,” according to a statement issued at the time by the NBA, an organization she first joined as HR after being encouraged to do so by a friend.

While in the NBA, she developed a rapport with Suns general manager James Jones and then-coach Monty Williams, who didn’t hesitate to hire her after working with her for many years and seeing her ability. Cato didn’t realize the historical significance of her new post until congratulatory responses began pouring in after a tweet announcing her appointment in 2022.

“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.

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