RALEIGH – A new “March Madness” is coming to the Dallas Mavericks, courtesy of Cynthia Marshall. Mark Cuban and the NBA franchise are likely to never be the same as the former head of AT&T in North Carolina takes over as the team’s CEO with a mandate to correct sexual harassment and workplace issues.
”The process failed somewhere,” Marshall declared at a press conference called by Cuban to announce Marshall’s hiring on Monday. ”I don’t know why it failed. And so that’s what we have to dig out. So I will be meeting one-on-one every single employee of the organization. I’m calling it my own `March Madness.”’
Virtually anyone who knows Cynthia Marshall is aware she has the moxie, the fortitude, a passion for diversity and equality, and the iron resolve to confront – and beat – any challenge. Her resume of achievement won’t change as she seeks to right wrongs within the Mavericks.
Here’s the backstory from someone who has had the privilege of knowing her for nearly a decade – and someone who is a survivor like her of that deadly scourge known as colon cancer.
Cancer survivor, a glass ceiling breaker
It’s not been that long ago that Marshall was at death’s door. She never gave up, relied on her deep Christian faith, family and friends. Through the grace of God she beat cancer in 2012, adding another victory in a life filled with achievements as she fought her way up through the management ranks of communications giants PacBell, BellSouth and AT&T.
As an African American and as a woman, over three decades she shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling, rising all the way to chief diversity officer and head of human resources.
So having done all that, why should anyone doubt that Marshall, who has deep ties to the Triangle, can solve sexual harassment and workplace issues plaguing the Mavericks?
Marshall, who led AT&T’s operations in North Carolina for five years and fought to make the state a top priority for broadband and 4G wireless deployments, retired recently from her post in Dallas. And when Cuban was rocked by a Sports Illustrated report about sexual harassment and workplace issues he quickly sought outside help. Cuban announced Monday the hiring of Marshall to address the issues.
Cuban said Monday he reached out to executives of AT&T, which is based in Dallas, for advice about handling the workplace crisis.
”Leadership at AT&T suggested her name to us and basically conveyed to us that their most devastating day at AT&T was when Cynt left,” Cuban said, ”That and confirmation from untold number of people was all the confirmation I needed to hear.”
Marshall had launched her own consulting firm after leaving AT&T. Now, she considers herself a “brand,” which means she has to succeed in her Mavericks role to protect that image and reputation.
”I’m a brand,” she said. ”I work very hard for the brand that I have. And I can’t attach my brand to something I can’t trust. By the time I left his office [last week], spent a day with the folks, I said I absolutely will attach my brand to this organization.”
Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle described Marshall as “dynamic” and “charismatic,” according to The Associated Press.
Those adjectives are very true.
Marshall and The Skinny talked often over the years about the trials and tribulations of cancer – and what’s needed to beat it. Prayer. Healing, Family. Resolution. Defiance. And great medical care.
“I feel wonderful,” she said, noting that her healing had been a “miracle” from God after a two-year battle.
We first met at a 4G rollout event in early 2012. I had written about her battles as she recounted them through a blog. She expressed thanks to people from around the Triangle and country who reached out to support her, including sitting at her side as she endured chemo treatments. Marshall shared her faith, trials and tribulations while remaining positive even at the depths of the worst pain.
“I felt,” she said, absolutely beaming again, “like I was the most loved person in the world.”
Now that was a big reason to smile then and still the case today – especially since as fellow survivors we could joke that we’re “still vertical.”
Her next task is restoring health to the Mavericks franchise. She’ll likely leave there “still vertical” when the task is done, ready for another “March Madness.”