Dan Hughes, who coached the Storm to a WNBA championship last season, has been diagnosed with cancer, the team announced Friday.
“A few weeks ago, I underwent emergency appendectomy,” Hughes said while seated next to his wife Mary in a video message to Storm fans. “During the procedure the doctors found a form of cancer. After consulting with team Dr. Adam Pourcho and the oncology team at Swedish (Medical Center) we formulated a treatment plan that will likely include a surgery in the coming weeks.
“While there are still some unknowns, I wanted you to be the first to know.”
Dr. Amir Bastawrous, who specializes in colon and rectal surgery at Swedish Medical Center, is expected to perform the surgery before the Storm’s May 25 regular-season opener, the team said in a release.
“Our thoughts and support are with Dan, Mary and their family,” CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “Dan’s health is a top priority, and the Storm will stand beside him on this journey. The coaching staff is in place and will support should any time be missed for recovery.”
The Storm’s coaching staff includes Gary Kloppenburg, a longtime WNBA assistant who led Seattle to an 8-5 record as an interim coach in 2017, and first-year assistant Noelle Quinn.
In 2018, Hughes ended a two-year retirement to guide the Storm to a league-best 26-8 record and a 6-2 mark in the postseason that included a 3-0 sweep in the WNBA Finals.
It was the first league title for the 64-year-old coach, who ranks third on the WNBA’s all-time wins list with a 263-295 record during a 17-year career that includes stints in Charlotte, Cleveland and San Antonio.
“He’s been able to enjoy this ride a little bit more than in the past,” Mary Hughes said before the championship series. “He’s enjoying this. I can tell. He’s having fun with this experience.”
After the WNBA draft last week, Hughes spoke optimistically about becoming the third team to win consecutive championships and was excited about the addition of free agent guard Shavonte Zellous to a veteran roster seemingly poised to defend its title.
However, the Storm’s title aspirations were severely altered this week.
On Thursday, WNBA most valuable player Breanna Stewart underwent surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon and will miss the 2019 season.
It’s unclear if Hughes will miss any games this year.
“My family and I are thankful for your support,” he told Storm fans. “And we are looking forward to seeing you at the games this summer.”