Not to discredit anyone in the WNBA, but Dan Hughes is the classiest guy in the league. I’m not saying this because he sports a cool Jimi Hendrix tie when San Antonio plays at KeyArena, it’s because of the opportunities he endless tries to give his staff.
He dished out another on Thursday, stepping down as the Silver Stars’ head coach to become their General Manager. Former Storm guard Sandy Brondello, his assistant the past five seasons, was named Hughes’ replacement and Brondello’s husband, Olaf Lange, will act as her associate head coach.
Hughes’ decision to give up coaching ultimately means San Antonio won’t have to fire anyone in order to comply with the WNBA’s new rule that teams can only have one full-time assistant coach. A cost-cutting measure agreed on by owners at the winter meetings in New York.
“It’s about putting people in their sweet spots and keeping the staff together,” Hughes told reporters at a press conference in San Antonio.
He kicked the decision around for months, agonizing over how San Antonio would comply with WNBA when I spoke with him over the winter. Hughes didn’t want to lose a talented staff due to money, so he fired himself. How many people do you know who would do that?
“I’m OK with it,” Hughes told reporters of giving up coaching. “I’ll continue to coach, just in a different kind of way.”
Of course this could backfire. Hughes could be overbearing, although he insisted it would be “Sandy’s team.” He could also make horrible GM moves, yet the Silver Stars have always had talented squads. The team has made three playoff appearances, two Western Conference Finals — including one Western Conference title — in Hughes’ five years with the team.
More focus on free agents and draft picks without the worry of day-to-day practices and games could benefit the organization. And, according to Hughes, everybody was in agreement with the decision — including the players, who Hughes communicated with prior to the announcement.
Another classy move.
“When you’re in a fight, you want to know you’re all on the same page,” he said. “But it will be Sandy’s team.”
Brondello, who’s pregnant with her second child, was hesitant about becoming a head coach in the past. Lange was a head coach in Spain, leading Ros Casares Valencia to the 2004 Supercup championship and the Mitteldeutscher Basketball Club to the men’s 2003 FIBA Europe Cup title. Brondello said she’s learned from her husband and Hughes and is looking forward to the position.
She’s vocal in the huddle and works out with the players during the offseason, so the transition should be fluid. Brondello (pictured above by the WNBA) becomes the seventh female head coach in the 12-team WNBA.
“We will be working hard to continue to provide a winning team, to which our fans have grown accustomed,” she said.
Brondello is the third Hughes assistant to become a head coach, joining Storm coach Brian Agler. Good friends, Hughes campaigned for Agler to get the job in Seattle, talking to former owner Clay Bennett.
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve is Hughes’ other former assistant to become a head coach. She was on his Cleveland staff.