Kayla McBride and Sydney Colson are happy to see former coach Dan Hughes back on the sidelines. They’ll host Hughes and the WNBA defending champion Seattle Storm Tuesday in Las Vegas.
Hughes underwent surgery last month to remove a carcinoid tumor in his digestive tract. He resumed his full head coaching duties last week and coached his first game of the season this past Friday.
McBride knew from her time playing for Hughes with the San Antonio Stars that if possible, he’d make his way back to the sidelines quickly.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” McBride told High Post Hoops. “I know his personality, his demeanor and the way he carries himself. He has a great family and support system. It’s just Coach Hughes, very even-keeled.
“I was really happy to hear that he was back. Just to see him doing so well with Seattle, I was really happy that he was able to have his success and to recover to now be back on the sidelines.”
McBride was drafted by San Antonio in 2014, playing four seasons there before the franchise relocated to Las Vegas. Colson spent three seasons with the club.
“Dan was a really high-spirited and energetic coach for us in San Antonio,” Colson told High Post Hoops. “He always had a positive mindset. We had some losing records in our last seasons there, but approaching practice and everything around the game he was always very professional and still very positive—never getting too high, never getting too low.
“Obviously [the Storm] had a terrific season winning it all last year, but for him to be hit with that news, I can only imagine what he’s going through. I’m glad that he’s back with the team.”
Hughes was hired by the Storm prior to the 2018 season after retiring at the conclusion of the 2016 season. The Storm secured the No. 1 overall seed with a league-best 26-8 season and swept the Washington Mystics in the 2018 WNBA Finals.
McBride has been an important bridge for the Aces as the franchise relocated and aims to build a perennial championship contender in Las Vegas. She credits Hughes for his role as a guide in the early stages of her WNBA career.
“He let me be myself and find my way,” she said. “He helped me build my character, build my work ethic, help me find my identity as a player. That was something that I’ll always be able to have with him. And he let us into his family, into his home. I was fortunate to have him early in my career.”
Colson also pointed to the times Hughes would have the team over to his house where they’d sing together as he and his wife played the piano.
Hughes is approaching two decades of coaching in the WNBA, including a Western Conference championship with the Stars in 2008. 10 years later, he won his first WNBA championship.
“From the Cleveland Rockers to us, just all over the place, he’s been such a great representative for our league, USA Basketball, just women’s basketball in general,” McBride said. “One of the pioneers for us in the coaching world. To see him finally have that moment, it’s special.”
Gary Kloppenburg served as the interim head coach until Hughes returned to the bench, a role he also filled for Seattle in the 2017 season after Jenny Boucek was fired. Aces center Carolyn Swords was a member of that Seattle group and admired Kloppenburg’s ability to step into that role to help guide the team to a playoff bid.
“He does a tremendous job with whatever he’s called upon to do,” Swords told High Post Hoops. “Does so very seamlessly, gracefully. When he did that for us, it allowed us to make a really great push, to make the playoffs. People who can stay light on their feet and be whoever the team needs them to be are incredibly valuable.
“He’s fun to work with. Good sense of humor. Can play both roles being very serious but also light-hearted. I enjoyed playing for him and think he’s doing a great job.”
Knowing Hughes has recovered and is back on the bench with the Storm, McBride is also excited to send a message with a convincing win on their home floor.
“Destroy his team, of course,” McBride said with a smile. “That’s what you want. You wanna give the champs a run for their money. That’s the plan.”
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