The first-year coach is known for his defensive schemes, but he helms a Storm team that averages 91.8 points per game and ranks second in the WNBA in scoring.
Some reputations die hard.
Take for instance first-year Storm coach Dan Hughes.
During his second season in 2001 with the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers, Hughes’ team set the WNBA record for fewest points allowed in a 69-34 victory in the season opener.
That season Cleveland also surrendered 35 points to Miami and 36 to Seattle, which ranks as the top three fewest scoring performances in the 22-year history of the league.
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The Rockers allowed opponents just 55.9 points per game in 2001 – a record that still stands – while winning the Eastern Conference title with a 22-10 record.
Due to the defensive brilliance of that 2001 Cleveland team, Hughes has worn the tag of a defensive guru over the course of his 17-year WNBA coaching career even though it wasn’t always applicable.
This could be one of those situations.
Hughes helms a Storm team that averages 91.8 points per game and ranks second in the WNBA in scoring heading into Saturday’s 5 p.m. game at Dallas.
When Seattle hired the 63-year-old coach last October, he was expected to fix a leaky defense that ranked fifth in the league while allowing 82.6 points per game.
Instead an improved offense that’s scoring 9.2 points more than last season has been the catalyst of the Storm’s early-season success and rapid rise to the top of the league standings at 5-1.
Meanwhile, the points allowed numbers have hardly changed. Last year, Seattle surrendered 82.6 points per game and this year its yielding 83.0.
Hughes said he’s installing a system that caters to a team with loaded with offensive weapons, particularly young stars Jewell Loyd (22.5) and Breanna Stewart (21.3) who rank second and third respectively in WNBA scoring.
“In Cleveland we still hold the defensive records, but it wasn’t quite like that in San Antonio,” said Hughes who spent 11 years (2005-09 and 2011-16) in San Antonio. “I’m a little more of what’s our strengths? Our strengths to me is a sense of balance about what we’re doing.
“Looking at our team, we made some inroads rebounding. This is a pretty good rebounding team and we continue to make inroads there. We are turning people over a little better, but we’re doing it with pace because this teams needs to play as many possessions as I can get for them.”
The Storm has made a significant increase in rebounding at both ends of the court. Seattle is collecting 53.1 percent of rebounds, an improvement over last year’s 47.5.
The good rebounding creates more possessions and extra scoring opportunities for a team that tallied at least 90 points just six times last year.
In six games this season, the Storm has surpassed 90 points in three games, including Thursday’s 101-74 rout over Las Vegas.
“I like the game going up and down,” Hughes said. “We’re not going to set defensive records as far as numbers, but if we’re efficient that’s key.
“We study the efficiency. How do we foul? How do we rebound? What turnover percentage are we creating? I’m more concerned with those numbers, but I also like seeing (opponents) in the 70s and 80s even if we do play fast.”
Aside from holding Phoenix to 71 points in a 16-point win last week, Hughes believes Seattle’s defense needs seasoning.
Conversely, the Storm’s offense, which set a WNBA record with 17 three-pointers on Thursday, is operating in peak condition.
“We’re finding ways to win, but I don’t know if we’ve ascended to as good as we can play,” Hughes said. “Defensively, we’re still not quite where we want to be. … But if we keep getting better, we’re going to be OK.”