Upon returning last week from a short absence to watch his son’s graduation, Storm coach Dan Hughes noted the difficulties of balancing a professional coaching career with the demands of being a husband and father of two kids.
“If there’s one thing I learned in a long career, I wanted the highest success I could attain, but I also wanted on equal footing my family to feel a part of what’s really important to me,” the 66-year-old Hughes said. “That’s hard to do in sports. Most of us that have really been in it understand that.
“And I’ve made some mistakes early in my life. I was very, very driven. But as an older coach and an older man being able to understand that you need both.”
On Sunday, Hughes announced his retirement, which surprised many within the Storm and around the WNBA considering he’s walking away from a defending championship team that’s 5-1 and poised to win a second straight title.
The Storm also promoted assistant Noelle Quinn to head coach.
“After over 40 years of coaching basketball, I want to finish my career with the focus and determination with which I started,” Hughes said in a statement released by the team. “The Seattle Storm is in amazing shape, after two championships and a terrific playoff run in 2019, I would like to announce my retirement from the WNBA. I believe now is the right time because the team is performing well, but the rigors of being a head coach in the WNBA have taken their toll on me.”
It’s not the first time Hughes has retired from the WNBA, but he may not return again.
In 2016, Hughes left the San Antonio Stars after a 12-year stint as the coach and general manager.
After three straight losing seasons (2015-17), the Storm fired Jenny Boucek and lured Hughes out of retirement.
During his first season, Hughes led Seattle to a league-best 26-8 record and the 2018 WNBA championship — the team’s third title.
The next year, Hughes had a cancerous tumor removed from his appendix, which forced him to miss the first nine games of the season. The Storm finished 18-16 and lost in the second round of the playoffs in 2019.
Last year, Hughes was not medically cleared by the WNBA to participate in the abbreviated season held entirely in Bradenton, Florida, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hughes assumed an advisory role with the team, broke down game film and chatted with players during Zoom calls from his home in Beavercreek, Ohio.
At the time, the Storm named Gary Kloppenburg head coach and he led the Storm to an 18-4 record and a 2020 WNBA title.
“That by far was the strangest and one of the most unique situations I’ve ever been in and I’ve been doing this quite some time,” Hughes said last month when asked about the 2020 season. “You’re taken out of your comfort zone and you’re finding new ways to communicate with people. … And that’s all coaching really is. It’s teaching, communicating and learning. I’ve done a lot in this sport and that season by far forced you to change and grow in some ways that you never expected.”
Hughes, who has a son, Bryce, and daughter, Sara, and four grandkids with his wife Mary, has done a lot in coaching.
After graduating from Muskingum University in Ohio, he got his start when he was 22 as an assistant for the Toledo Rockets, first with the men (1991-96) and then with the women’s team (1996-97). He was also an assistant for the men’s teams at Mount Union and Baldwin-Wallace.
Hughes made it to the WNBA in 1999 as an assistant with the Charlotte Sting before taking over at midseason and finishing 10-10.
The next year, Hughes landed with Cleveland and spent four seasons with the Rockers while making three postseason appearances.
But Hughes had his most success with San Antonio (2005-09 and 2011-16), where he led the Stars to the playoffs six times as the coach and general manager.
Hughes, a two-time WNBA Coach of the Year (2001 and ’07), ranks first in league history in seasons coached (19), second in games coached (598) and is tied for the third-most wins while compiling a 286-312 record.
Hughes’ final victory with the Storm was Friday’s 82-72 blowout win over Minnesota.
“I wanted to say congratulations to Dan Hughes on his incredible career, and thank him for inviting us to his retirement party on Friday,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And so, you know, we didn’t know that beforehand, but we definitely had a nice gift for him.”
Hughes said he will still be an assistant coach for USA Basketball this summer in the Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, the Storm is elevating Quinn, who becomes the team’s seventh head coach and its first Black head coach.
Quinn, a former UCLA star who spent 12 years in the WNBA with five teams, had two stints with the Storm in 2013-14 and 2016-18. She joined Hughes’ staff in 2019.
“I am excited to hand the reins to Noelle,” Hughes said. “She is well positioned to do this job and I am proud to have mentored her during my time here. I look forward to her and the team’s ongoing success.”
Quinn makes her coaching debut Tuesday against Indiana.