Cynt Marshall

CEO | Dallas Mavericks

Speaking to reporters after announcing he was selling a majority of the Dallas Mavericks to the Adelson-Dumont family for nearly $4 billion (quite a return on the $285 million he paid in 2000), Mark Cuban said there was logic in the move.

“It’s a partnership, right? They’re not basketball people. I’m not real estate people. That’s why I did it,” he said. “Their ability to build and redevelop the arena and whatever comes next beyond that just puts us in a better position to compete.”

The real estate people who don’t know basketball and the basketball people who don’t know real estate will invariably lean on the steady hand that’s led the Mavs since 2018: Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall, who, coincidentally, came to Dallas as neither a real estate or basketball person but is now among the most respected executives in the NBA. She tells VenuesNow she’s ready for the newest challenge in her career.

“I’m very excited about potential renovations to the American Airlines Center and the investments that the new owners of the Dallas Mavericks have committed to Dallas and our fans,” she said.

Those renovations come on top of an extensive off-season upgrade to the nearly 23-year-old building.

“Can you say, ‘bigger than life’ viewing experience? That’s one of the responses I heard when fans saw our new Jumbotron at the start of the season,” she said. “As part of a $20 million investment in the offseason, we replaced every seat in the arena, affixed a new roof, and installed a $10 million scoreboard. Our off season plans were focused on the arena fan experience as they watch the games.”

Marshall the CEO — the first Black woman to hold that position for an NBA team — is the ultimate cheerleader for her team, her building and her plans. That makes sense, as her first piece of history-making was as the first Black cheerleader at the University of California. She left Berkeley with a degree in business administration, with a focus on organizational behavior and human resources. She had 13 job offers and took the one with a management fast-track and the highest salary. She stayed with AT&T for the next 36 years, serving as president of AT&T North Carolina and then senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer for the national entity.

Following a damning 2018 report in Sports Illustrated alleging a two-decade long culture of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, Cuban brought Marshall to Big D to take charge. And take charge she did.

But first she had to take Cuban’s call. She admits now she didn’t know who Cuban was but, urged on by her husband, she spoke to him. Still, she was put off by the reputation generated by that SI report. As she told Cal’s alumni magazine, she was impressed by Cuban’s desire for a change and struck by the pain and passions of Mavs employees.

Nearly six years later, the Mavs are considered one of the standard-bearers for diversity and inclusion in the NBA. That’s in no small part due to Marshall’s efforts, who made a 100-day plan that injected a new culture into the workplace. Hitting the ground running, she connected with most employees (95%) in that first 100 days, quickly meeting the remaining 5% soon after. She placed women in leadership roles and established a complaint process and ethics hotline for accountability. A mandatory code of conduct with training, encompassing everyone from coaching staff to players, further solidified these ethical standards. But progress is a journey, not a destination, and there’s still mileage to go.

“The state of women is strong. There are many women on the scene who are being seen in a variety of ways. Some are behind the limelight producing, writing, training and coaching while others are performing and playing,” she says. “I’m impressed and proud of how many talented women I encounter in my world. I am looking forward to the day when they tell me that their pay matches their impact.”

She takes lessons she learned in her rise from the projects of San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood to the heights of business and sports and cultivates them for that generation she hopes is paid fairly.

“My mentors were and are my mother and top leaders at AT&T who voluntarily poured into me and made me better, professionally and personally. Chuck Smith, Norm McBride, Cassandra Carr, Priscilla Hill Ardoin and Bill Blase are just a few who come to mind,” she said. “The advice I give my mentees is to dream big, do the right thing, prepare, show up, work hard, have fun and stay open to the possibilities. The best is yet to come.”

Marshall still has plenty of fun, which both the real estate and basketball people can appreciate.

“The live vibe is electric. I love making an emotional and sometimes spiritual connection with the performers and fellow audience members,” Marshall says. “Choices of live entertainment allow me to tap into what I want to feel. Whether it’s the excitement of a Dallas Mavericks or Dallas Wings basketball game, the romanticism of an Anita Baker or Andrea Bocelli concert, or the musically thrilling storytelling of a Broadway Dallas show, live entertainment makes me happy,” she says, citing “Tina Turner: The Musical” as a recent favorite event.

Still, there’s work to be done. Renovations at the American Airlines Center, getting new owners integrated into the culture she built, connecting the basketball people and the real estate people and navigating what other unforeseen challenges come up.

Cynt Marshall has proven she’s up for it time and again.


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