An Incredible Turnaround: Dan Hughes for Coach of the Year

By Wyatt Yearout

Seattle went 15-19 last season, returned eight of 12 players, and now sits No. 1 at 24-8 overall

With Seattle’s performance so far this season, much of the credit has been given to its players, and rightfully so. Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard are all having career seasons, and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird is on track to average a career best for assists (7.2) in her 16th active season.

But one of the least promoted topics of Seattle’s record season is the job first-year head coach Dan Hughes has done to turn this franchise around.

Hughes made his WNBA coaching debut in 1999 for the Charlotte Sting and coached for 16 seasons in the league with Charlotte, Cleveland and San Antonio before retiring at the end of the 2016 season.

When Hughes agreed to return to coaching with the Storm last October, he was prepared to coach a team that went 15-19 during the 2017 regular season and was bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Mercury.

Not only that, the Storm brought back eight of the 12 players from a team that didn’t crack a .500 record the year before, so Hughes was given the task to improve a team that essentially returned its entire core.

With that in mind, many people expected Seattle to be a similar team to the year prior, with a coaching change and a couple small roster moves not being enough to really move the needle, let alone make the Storm an elite team.

Fast forward four months to August, and the Storm is the number one team in the WNBA, currently sitting at 24-8, marking the second-most wins in the franchise’s 19-year history.

Not only has the Storm been the number one seed for essentially the entire season, the team is also providing the numbers to prove that the results are no fluke.

With Hughes at the helm, Seattle as a team ranks in the top two in seven statistical categories this season. The Storm ranks first in three-pointers made per game (8.4), first in three-point field goal percentage (36.8), first in field goal percentage (46.9), second in field goals made per game (32.2), first in assists per game (21.3), first in steals per game (7.9) and first in points per game (87.6).

The Storm has also hit 283 three-pointers this season, which is tied for first in WNBA single-season history. With two games remaining this season, the Storm will almost certainly surpass that record as well.

In addition to its league-leading statistics, Hughes has led the Storm to 13 road wins, which ties the WNBA record for most road wins in a season, as well as marking a franchise best. The Storm has also posted three five-game winning streaks in 2018, with eight of the 15 victories coming on the road.

Hughes has excelled in getting his team to bounce back from losses, as the Storm is the only team in the WNBA this season without back-to-back setbacks. If the Storm wins one of its next two games, it would become the fifth team in WNBA history to achieve such a feat for a season, as well as the first team to do so since 2014.

Considering where this team was at last year, the job he’s done this season, and his team’s record, results and league-leading statistics, it’s no question that Hughes has earned WNBA Coach of the Year. However, he along with his players know that their job is not close to being done, as they aim to bring home the third championship in franchise history.