Dan Hughes won’t coach Storm in Florida; higher COVID-19 risk cited

7:58 PM ET

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Coach Dan Hughes will not be joining the Seattle Storm for the upcoming WNBA season in Bradenton, Florida, the organization announced Monday.

After a medical assessment by the league and consultation with Hughes’ doctor, it was determined Hughes could be at a higher risk for severe illness if he contracted the coronavirus.

Storm assistant Gary Kloppenburg will be head coach, and be assisted by former WNBA player Noelle Quinn and Ryan Webb. The league plans to have its season at a single site at IMG Academy from late July to October.

In the spring of 2019, Hughes was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his appendix. He was able to return to the Storm after missing nine games last season, and Kloppenburg also served as head coach during that time. Kloppenburg has had extensive experience as a head coach and assistant with other WNBA organizations as well. The Storm, which were without injured Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird last season, went 18-16 and lost in the second round of the playoffs.

“I am saddened that I won’t be able to travel with the team, as everyone knows how much love I have for this organization,” Hughes said in a statement. “I am thankful to be in good health and looking forward to supporting Coach Klopp and the staff and players in any way I can this season.”

Hughes, 65, led the Storm to the organization’s third WNBA title in 2018. It was the first title for Hughes, who began his WNBA coaching career as an assistant in Charlotte in 1999 before becoming head coach in Cleveland the next year. Hughes coached the Rockers for four seasons and then went to the San Antonio Stars from 2005-16, although he didn’t coach in 2010, when he just held the title of general manager.

Hughes retired from coaching after the 2016 season, but then came back when the opportunity arose in 2018 in Seattle.

“While the Storm family is greatly disappointed that Dan will not be able to join the team this season, his health and family are the top priority,” said Alisha Valavanis, CEO and general manager of the Storm. “We know he will continue to be an important voice of support for the team and staff while we compete this season.”

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