Dan Hughes, a 16-year veteran coach who made 10 postseason appearances and one trip to the WNBA Finals, is entrusted with restoring a once-proud franchise to prominence after years of mediocrity.
Dan Hughes saw the gaudy offensive statistics, the horrific defensive analytics and the 15-19 record from last season, but the new Storm coach needed to dig deeper and do his homework to truly understand how a talent-rich team finished four games below .500.
Since taking over last October, he spent the past 6½ months combing through countless hours of video from all 34 regular-season games and the playoff defeat at Phoenix.
Then Hughes retooled the roster via a trade, free-agent signings and the draft — a series of moves that brought in eight newcomers while retaining eight veterans.
Sunday: Start of training camp
May 8: Exhibition opener, noon against Phoenix
May 12: Exhibition finale, 7 p.m. at Phoenix
May 20: Season opener, 6 p.m. against Phoenix
July 28: WNBA All-Star Game, 12:30 p.m. at Minnesota
Aug. 19: Home finale, 4 p.m. against Dallas
The time for reflection is over, Hughes said ahead of the start to training camp Sunday, which also marks his return to the WNBA after a one-year retirement.
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“You learn from the past, but Sunday is about living in the moment and I’m ready to live in the moment,” Hughes said. “I’ve done all of the other work — all of the prep. And I want to throw all of that away and just get into the moment now.
“Maybe I’m smarter because of the time I spent reviewing everything I could find, but I don’t want to live there anymore. That’s the first thing I’ll tell the players — it’s about the present now. It’s about today and tomorrow.”
Hughes, 62, is the fourth Storm coach in the past five years, including Brian Agler, who left in 2014.
Jenny Boucek took over in 2015 with mixed results. After a 10-24 campaign — the franchise’s worst record since its inception in 2000 — she guided Seattle to a respectable 16-18 finish and a return to the playoffs that ended a two-year postseason drought.
However, Boucek was fired after a 10-16 start last season and replaced by assistant Gary Kloppenburg, who guided the Storm to a 5-3 record and a second straight loss in the first round of the playoffs.
Now Hughes, a 16-year veteran coach who made 10 postseason appearances and one trip to the WNBA Finals, is entrusted with restoring a once-proud franchise to prominence after years of mediocrity.
Seattle, which won WNBA titles in 2010 and 2004, has been swept in its past three playoff trips and hasn’t finished the regular season with a winning record since 2011.
Hughes, who retained Kloppenburg as an assistant and added Crystal Robinson to his coaching staff, won’t have long to install his defensive-oriented system.
Three things to watch
Establishing a defensive identity
Dan Hughes, who has the reputation as a defensive-minded coach during his 16-year WNBA career, takes over a high-scoring Storm team that ranked fifth in the league while scoring 82.6 points. Seattle also allowed 82.6 points per game and ranked eighth in the league in scoring defense. The Storm was 6-15 in games when the opponent scored at least 80 points.
Finding a role for Breanna Stewart
The 6-foot-4 forward averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds last year after tallying 18.6 and 9.3 in 2016 as a rookie. The 23-year-old Stewart is an MVP candidate, but the winningest player in NCAA history who has four national championships has yet to win a playoff game.
Can Sue Bird and Jordin Canada coexist?
It will be interesting to see how perennial All-Star Sue Bird, shares the point-guard duties with No. 5 overall WNBA draft pick Jordin Canada. Seemingly, the 37-year-old Bird is still in her prime and she’s never averaged fewer than 28.6 minutes during her 16-year career.
The Storm plays exhibition games on May 8 and 12 before the regular-season opener on May 20 against rival Phoenix.
“I would like for us to get roles defined as quickly as possible,” Hughes said. “Some of them I can do right now. Some of them, I’m going to need a little bit of time. But I want them to feel important in whatever their role is.”
At the top of Hughes’ to-do list is establishing roles for stars Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd — Seattle’s leading scorers — as well as perennial All-Star point guard Sue Bird.
The Storm bulked up inside with free-agent center Courtney Paris and traded for forward Natasha Howard, which should give Stewart and forward Crystal Langhorne help in the post.
“We made a lot of moves, and it’s good,” Stewart said. “We needed it. We’ve gotten to the playoffs two years in a row, but we haven’t been able to have that extra push. Now we have experienced players coming in and an experienced coach in Dan.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be competitive. The camp is going to be really, really competitive. We want a championship. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to get by. We want a championship and make sure that whenever Sue is done, that she’s done on the right note.”
And speaking of Bird, the 37-year-old veteran who begins her 16th season will split time at point guard with heir apparent Jordin Canada, the former UCLA star taken No. 5 overall in the draft.
“I can’t tell you right now what that’s going to look like between those two in terms of minutes or rotations,” Hughes said. “That’s what training camp is all about. That’s why I’m excited to get going, so we can answer some of those questions.”