Storm coach Dan Hughes to miss 2020 WNBA season

The 18-year coaching veteran will not make the trip to Florida

Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.


UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA - July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm Head Coach Dan Hughes during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Seattle Storm Head Coach Dan Hughes will miss the 2020 WNBA season in Bradenton, Florida, the team announced Monday. After undergoing a league-administered medical assessment and meeting with his physician, it was determined that Hughes could be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe illness.

Amidst a period of time when WNBA players are deciding whether to opt-out of the 2020 season, it’s the Storm coach that will not be traveling with his team to the IMG Academy when the league plans to restart play in late July.

“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 release. “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, will miss time for the second consecutive year, as he joined the Storm nine games into last season after having surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his digestive tract.

“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. We know he will continue to be an important voice of support for the team and staff while we compete this season,” said Alisha Valavanis, CEO and General Manager of the Storm, in the release.

In his place, the Storm promoted Assistant Coach Gary Kloppenburg to the head coaching role for the year. Kloppenburg originally began his coaching career with Seattle as an assistant from 2000-2002. He made stops with the Phoenix Mercury, Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA, Indiana Fever, Tulsa Shock — as a head coach — and Los Angeles Sparks before rejoining the Storm in 2017.

“Klopp is a veteran coach in this league and within our organization. His defensive background as well as his presence as a seasoned head coach position us well to compete for a championship,” Valavanis said.

Seattle Storm Assistant Coach Gary Kloppenburg during the WNBA game between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on June 16, 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

Kloppenburg went just 20-48 in his two years as a head coach in Tulsa but guided the storm to a 5-4 mark during Hughes’ absence a year ago.

In another change to the staff, Seattle promoted Noelle Quinn to associate head coach. Quinn was an assistant coach in 2019 after a 12-year WNBA career, including five with the Storm capped by her first championship in 2018.

“Noey is an up-and-coming star in the WNBA coaching ranks. Her knowledge of the game and feel for the players’ experience make her a natural fit for our coaching staff. We are excited for her promotion and for the additional responsibility she will assume,” added Valavanis. 

According to the team, Quinn will specifically handle offensive strategy and support game management.

Despite the fact that the Storm will fly southeast without its head coach, nobody on the roster has indicated their intent to opt out of the upcoming season thus far, an option permitted by the league amidst the pandemic and momentum behind social justice initiatives in America.