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MORRISTOWN – Be a great teammate, bring the sound of work into your life, and energize.
These are three of the main topics that retired WNBA coach Dan Hughes recently touched on in a 25-minute speech as he addressed more than 60 youngsters at the first basketball camp. local Union girls ball Tuesday morning.
“When I talk about this kind of thing, I adapt the messages, but I’ve found that I end up talking a lot about culture” Hughes, who graduated in 1973 from Fort Frye High School, said.
“I’m talking about leadership, teamwork and those things. I really appreciated this opportunity and for me it is something that will continue as I move into the next chapter of what I do.
His appearance at the local Union’s camp came quickly.
In fact, Union Locale Girls’ head coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda was speaking to a former assistant coach – Tyler Engle – about the event.
Engle – also a Fort Frye graduate – stressed that he had developed a fairly good relationship with Hughes over the years and was ready to reach out.
“I have a big, big respect for Tyler and he reached out and I made every effort to see what I could do,” said Hugues. “I like giving back to the game and to the communities. Also, I was a high school coach (at London Madison Plains) in Ohio and I recognize the importance of these camps.
“It was one in a million” Tolzda said. “Tyler said he knew him and they became friends. I literally called (Coach Hughes on Monday) and he lives near Cincinnati and has come this far. He’s very down to earth. earth, humble and you can see why he is successful. When you talk about women’s basketball and people come to talk, it could be Geno (Auriemma) one, then Coach Hughes. And he was there.
Many parents were on hand to listen to Hughes’ speech. The local Union women’s basketball team gave Hughes a small gift as a thank you.
If it hadn’t been for one of the toughest decisions he’s made in his professional life, Hughes wouldn’t have been able to attend camp.
Hughes actually started the season on the bench with the Seattle Storm, but after a long discussion with his wife and seen the state of the organization, which includes two of the last three WNBA championships, including the 2020 title in the bubble l last summer, Hughes felt it was time.
“The decision was very difficult, but sometimes you just know when it is the right time” said Hugues. “When the succession plan is in order and you know someone is right, it’s different. Our team was 5-1 and playing well, but our staff were positioned to the point where my withdrawal would not negatively impact the team.
Hughes’ retirement followed a 2020 season where he was not allowed – by his medics – to travel to the bubble, which was located at IMG Academy in Florida because he is a cancer survivor. . Thus, he was deemed to be at high risk for COVID-19.
Even though he was not with the team on a daily basis during games, he was involved on a daily basis. Like so many others around the world, Hughes learned to coach basketball virtually.
“I spoke with the players via Zoom, SMS, phone calls and became a kind of advanced scout,” said Hugues. “I became like an advanced scout and then I chatted with the coaches. I just wanted to find a way to help. Also, the ongoing dialogue I had with the players was something I wouldn’t trade for the world, but I wouldn’t want to do it again.
Hughes was adamant that his head coaching career is over. But, he hasn’t closed the book on other opportunities that may arise in sports.
“I don’t want to be a head coach again, but I’m going to do things, even if it’s things like (talking)”, said Hugues. “The game has given me a lot and I want to give back. I had the chance to meet a lot of people, so we’ll see what happens. I saw myself helping coaches or teams in other ways.
Hughes won’t have to wait long, in fact, to get back on a bench. He will be one of the US team’s assistant coaches at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The women’s team will meet in Las Vegas in mid-July to begin preparations.
Since being fully vaccinated, Hughes has received the full green light from his doctors and family.
“The vaccination was the reason I couldn’t go to the bubble” said Hugues. “Once vaccinated, I went back to everything. I took very good care of myself because I wanted to be able to be part of the Olympics and finish training on my terms.
While he doesn’t have much to say about the roster, Hughes believes there is a very good chance he could coach some of his former players again. He thinks Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and Jewell Loyd all have legitimate chances of making the USA squad.
“If it’s the last thing I do (in basketball), it’s really cool”, said Hugues. “Representing your country and having people who mean so much to me is a blessing. I look forward to interacting with them as a member of the team and we will do our utmost to win a gold medal. “