Childhood & Early Life
Samuel James Cassell was born on November 18, 1969, in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. His mother, Donna Cassell, sent him to the ‘Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community High School’ in East Baltimore.
He was scouted by the Catholic ‘DePaul University,’ Chicago, after playing a year of post-graduate basketball at the ‘Maine Central Institute,’ Pittsfield, under coach Max Good. However, he was ruled academically ineligible by the ‘National Collegiate Athletic Association’ (NCAA).
His actual college-basketball career began only once he enrolled at the ‘San Jacinto College’ in Houston, Texas. He then transferred to the ‘Florida State University,’ Tallahassee, for his junior and senior years.
Cassell averaged 18.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game during his senior year in 1992–1993. He was the leader (in terms of total steals) in the ‘Atlantic Coast Conference’ of the ‘NCAA.’ With 38.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, he formed the number-one scoring and rebounding backcourt in all of US college-basketball, alongside teammate Bob Sura.
His ‘Division-I’ team, the ‘Florida State Seminoles,’ finished with a 25–10 record in the 1992–1993 collegiate season and advanced to the ‘Elite Eight’ stage of the ‘NCAA’ tournament. However, it eventually lost to the ‘Wildcats’ from the ‘University of Kentucky.’
Professional Career as Player & Coach
Cassell was drafted by the ‘Houston Rockets’ on June 30, 1993, as a 24th overall in the first round of the 1993 ‘NBA’ draft. Once there, he had to struggle and hustle to earn game-time with a team that had won 55 games in their previous season and had future hall-of-famers such as Hakeem Olajuwon and a crowded backcourt.
He managed to create a back-up role for himself at the ‘Rockets,’ helping the team win 58 games and finish as the number-two seed in ‘NBA’s ‘Western Conference.’ He scored 7 points in the last 32 seconds, in a 93–89 win over the ‘New York Knicks’ during the 1994 finals. The ‘Rockets’ went on to win in 7 games.
Cassell’s second season with the ‘Rockets’ saw him play a more important role, with him appearing in all 82 games and helping the team reach the ‘NBA’ finals for the second year in a row. He scored 31 points in a finals game against ‘Orlando Magic.’ The ‘Rockets’ won the game, and this gave Cassell his second championship in 2 years in the league.
After missing 21 games due to injuries in his third season and the team suffering a second-round exit at the hands of the ‘Seattle SuperSonics,’ Cassell was traded by the ‘Rockets’ to the ‘Phoenix Suns’ on August 19, 1996, along with teammates Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant and Robert Horry, in exchange for former league-‘MVP’ Charles Barkley and a second-round pick (Tyrone Washington) for the 1999 ‘NBA’ draft.
Following his frequent clashes with the ‘Suns’ head coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons, followed by the latter’s resignation, Cassell led the team into breaking a 15-game winning-streak of ‘Utah Jazz,’ scoring 21 points in a 95–87 away-win. He helped the team improve under the new coach, Danny Ainge, while scoring an average of 14.8 points per game. He was traded to the ‘Dallas Mavericks’ along with teammates Michael Finley, A.C. Green, and second-round 1998 draft pick Greg Buckner, in exchange for Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas, and Loren Meyer, on December 26, 1996.
After appearing in 16 games for the ‘Mavericks,’ he was traded mid-season, in a pack of four, on February 17, 1997, to the ‘New Jersey Nets.’ Once the season ended, he signed a 6-year contract with the ‘Nets,’ forming one of the most potent backcourts of the league, alongside Kerry Kittles. He averaged 19.6 points, 8 assists, and 1.6 steals in 34 minutes per game, helping the team enter the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. The ‘Nets’ were swamped, however, by the prime form of Michael Jordan and the ‘Chicago Bulls,’ in the first round.
After his trade-off to the ‘Milwaukee Bucks’ on March 11, 1999, Cassell formed the ‘Big 3,’ alongside teammates Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson, under new coach George Karl. On March 3, 2001, he scored a career-high of 40 points against the ‘Bulls.’ He also won the ‘Fleer Shootout at Jam Session’ during the ‘All-Star Weekend’ in 2001 and crossed 10,000 career-points the following season, before being sent to the ‘Minnesota Timberwolves’ on June 27, 2003. Cassell helped both the ‘Bucks’ and the ‘Timberwolves’ reach the ‘Conference Finals’ in 2001 and 2004, respectively. The achievement was the first-ever such feat for the ‘Timberwolves’ in the history of the franchise.
He was then packed off to the ‘LA Clippers’ in one of the most lop-sided ‘NBA’ trade-offs ever. He helped them to achieve their first playoff series victory since 1997. He rejected a better offer from the ‘Atlanta Hawks’ the following season, to sign a 2-year extension with the ‘Clippers.’
On February 28, 2008, he was waived by the ‘Clippers,’ and on March 3, 2008, he was signed as a free agent with the ‘Boston Celtics,’ contributing to arguably the best veteran bench in ‘NBA’ that season. This provided the ‘Celtics’ with a 66–16 win–loss record, an ‘NBA’ best, on their way to the finals. They beat the ‘LA Lakers’ in the finals, to win the championship.
Cassell did not play in the following season. However, he became an unofficial assistant to the ‘Celtics’ head coach, Glenn Anton “Doc” Rivers. The management traded him to the ‘Sacramento Kings’ on February 17, 2009, purely for salary-cap reasons. He was waived by his final official team the following day.
On May 21, 2009, Cassell became an assistant coach for the ‘Washington Wizards’ under his former ‘Timberwolves’ coach, Flip Saunders. After five seasons in that role, he was recalled by the trusted Doc Rivers on September 29, 2014, to assist in coaching duties at the ‘LA Clippers.’
Family & Personal Life
Sam Cassell is married to Tonya Cassell. He had dated Ananda Lewis in 2006 and Anitra Griffin in 2007. He has a son, Sam Cassell Jr., who was born on May 12, 1992. Following the birth of his son, the ‘NBA’ legend began to be known as “Samuel James Cassell Sr.” Cassell Jr. has been a college basketball player at ‘Iona College’ and was drafted to the ‘Cleveland Cavaliers Summer League Squad’ in 2017.
Cassell has refrained from publicly disclosing the identity of the mother of his son. He was also once rumored to be the next head coach of the ‘Houston Rockets.’ However, this later turned out to be just a rumor.
Besides appearing in several sports broadcasts and TV projects over the years, Cassell has also helped out as a producer of the horror ‘Chain Letter’ and the telefilm ‘Kid Edition,’ both released in 2009.