Silver Stars GM Dan Hughes Discusses the Draft

The San Antonio Silver Stars have seen a good amount of change during the offseason. While player movement is always expected, the coaching staff had been well established, so when Dan Hughes announced that we was stepping down as head coach in order to concentrate on his duties as general manager, it came as a surprise. Sandy Brondello takes over the head coaching duties and will field a team that will feature a number of new faces in 2010, including the players San Antonio selects in Thursday's WNBA Draft.

Hughes took some time to chat with about this year's draft class, his draft prepartion and strategy, the player moves that the Silver Stars have already made and breaks down some of this year's top prospects. With the fifth pick, you guys have plenty of options. Are these any specific needs youíre trying to fill right now?

Hughes: Because of some of the free agency moves that we've made, I think we honestly have the ability to go across the board. We can take a point guard, we can take a big perimeter player, we can take a post player. A lot of it has to do with, does somebody fall who might be projected higher to us? I think we would be open to that. Any player, just about. If not, and if weíre just talking about needs, I think weíre still interested in another post player. I think weíre still interested in a perimeter player of size. It might be a continued need that weíre looking to fill, but weíre really open to whoís there. Itís not going to be need based if somebody drops. It might be, 'Ok, this playerís here. Do we think sheís a better player?' Weíll take her." Tell me a little bit about your scouting process in terms of going out, going to games. Iím sure everyoneís been tuning into the NCAA tourney, but how much do you get to go out onto the road and see some of the players in person?

Hughes: "I try to see potential first rounders, to be honest with you. Thatís usually a goal of mine. I am mostly a video person. I am mostly driven by that; I watch an enormous amount of games. Every day from the start of the college season to the end, without exception for most, I wake up and I watch games from the night before or study a specific player. Iím driven more by video than I am by live. We try to see what we might determine first round picks, live at least." Obviously with the amount of video youíre watching, have there been players that you kind of pick up that donít get the top billing but that youíve seen enough of that you would kind of have a little of an under the radar aspect to them?

Hughes: "Yeah. I think that because of the resources in our league and in some peoplesí situation, we do use TV and we do use video out there. Just about everybodyís on TV. There are some teams that are on a lot more than others. So you look at some of those kids Ė Alysha Clark is a great example Ė I had game film on her but you may not quite have as much game film on her as somebody who plays in the Big Ten and youíre getting almost every game. In the moment, I think those kids sometimes are underlooked. The other situation that I find myself in sometimes is that you got a player maybe on a great team and theyíre not the first option or the second option. And youíre evaluating them and watching them and realizing theyíre good players but theyíre taking the role of a second or third option on a good team. And then you got the flipside of it. You got a player who is kind of carrying their team. Thereís a couple of examples. Andrea Riley was really leaned on hard by her team. Allison Hightower was really leaned on hard by her team, from an offensive perspective, both of them. So thereís an aspect now, youíre saying, 'Iím going to take that player and put them into our system. How does that fit?' I donít know if I have an answer, but those are things that I watch tape on and then try and analyze and specifically as I get to know them personally. How the fit would be." You can look at somebody like a Kalana Greene, the third option on UConn. Is her value to fit into a system greater than someone that maybe is carrying a team?

Hughes: "Right. And thatís a dilemma. Iím not sure I completely answer that in my own mind. You think about that a little bit, because there is a reality to it. The role delineation in both situations in college makes sense. But the role delineation here is going to be different. Potentially for that one player who was leaned on exclusively, theyíre going to have better players around them in some cases for them to play to. So thereís that little dilemma going on as you evaluate these good players." You guys have had a lot of player movement, even before the Draft. You have your core of Becky, Sophia and you brought back Ruth, but you really are going to fit and put a pretty new team out there this year.

Hughes: "'Blending' is the word we try to use. Because we have some staples as part of the way weíre doing. But yeah, I think you have a new coach thatís bringing her style to this. Itís not a bad time for all of this to happen because of that situation. But the word weíre using is 'blending.' We got some staples there but weíve had to blend some other pieces in with it now." Does it feel a bit like a transition year? Obviously with you moving solely to the GM role, new coach, a bunch of new players. Is there going to be enough time to try to get everything together?

Hughes: "Well I think the biggest year of growth that Iíve had in San Antonio was also the biggest year of change. So I think itís kind of how we handle what we end up with. You look back here; we went from winning 13 games in year two to winning 20 games. And there was significant change. You know, Becky came in, Ruth came in, Erin Buescher came in. A lot of those players came in on those particular years. The other thing I would say is, our league is so fluid that you better, ya know, if I look back at last year and have any regrets about the year Ė and I donít have a lot, but I have some Ė it would be that we had a very good season the year before. We didnít make a lot of changes. But the league kept getting better. And I think that we in the WNBA, if youíre standing still your competition may be getting better. And so that constant look to try and get better is something that we have to embrace in the WNBA because we seem to be escalating our play each year in a way that we got to be aware of." If youíre not moving with everybody else youíre gonna get passed, right?

Hughes: "Yeah. And you know, we had such a wonderful team the year before, I was hesitant to a lot of change a year ago. But in hindsight, I thought teams got deeper. I thought there were some issues that we were dealing with that we hadnít dealt with in the year before in our competition, so we had to address that kind of as we get ready 2010." Well one of the things you had to deal with last year was Ann Wauters coming in midway and obviously this year she decided not to play at all. Were you expecting that? Did you know this coming in and it just got announced this week, or did she make this decision fairly recently?

Hughes: "Well I think she put the final stages on the decision just recently. We knew she was making a decision and we knew, we have a good relationship with her, and we knew that it was a pull and tug with her because she enjoys playing basketball here. The issue had nothing to do with basketball. The issue had to do with, kind of her overall look at her life, from the standpoint of playing year around and that type of thing. And we knew from the basketball experience that we have a really good relationship with her and that she enjoys playing here a great deal. A great deal. But we were aware that she was going through a really difficult decision and I think bringing Michelle Snow in here was one of the reflections on that, for example." The final thing I want to talk about is your transition. How has it been just sitting in the GM seat and not having to wear the coachís hat anymore?

Hughes: "I havenít really felt it yet because Iíve been extremely busy. Itís just business as usual with me. The only difference really has been that I think I spent a lot of time trying to understand Sandyís look at things. And I spend more time thinking about players that I think fit how she wants to play the game. I think thatís important. Itís not just thinking about Dan Hughesí comfort level, I think itís important to think about Sandy Brondelloís comfort level in some of these decisions. And we share a lot of history so I have a good beginning point with that. But Iíve probably been as busy or busier than Iíve ever been in any year right to this point. Now I think when the season starts itíll be a little different for me, but right now itís just me trying to compliment what theyíre trying to do as much as I can in my role." Thatís obviously a new challenge this year. Before youíre drafting players and youíre coaching the players, so youíre drafting exactly who you want to coach. Is it tough to draft for someone else to coach the player? How much input are you really taking in from Sandy to help guide these decisions?

Hughes: "Iím taking a lot of input, to be honest with you. I know how important it to have a comfort level in who you coach. Youíre absolutely right. At some point I switched from being GM to coach and I looked at the players mostly as coach at that point. How I would coach them and how weíre going to do that. So I think itís very important how they feel. Very, very, VERY important. (laughs) And at some point I feel like itís my job just to hand this team over to them and say, ďOK. Youíre a team.Ē You know? And for us to have worked together to that point. I donít like messing with teams a lot during the season. If youíve typically watched me, I havenít done a lot of moves in-season through my decade and I donít really necessarily want to do that with them unless itís absolutely called for by events or something. I want to work together on putting together a great training camp for them and I kinda want to let them see how this team finishes up in their minds to take into the season at that point. And I just want to be helpful in that process, but I think itís very important that hey have ownership of this team as well as the players that Iím attracted to." I donít know how much information youíd be willing to divulge, but can you give me an idea of some of the players you guys are looking at any maybe targeting at the number 5 spot? I mean that you projected to kind of be around. Everyone would love to have Tina Charles, but itís just not gonna happen. One, two and three seem pretty firm but after that you really do have a lot of options there.

Hughes: "Wright, Appel and Charles I donít think we need to talk about. Theyíre the names we hear ahead of us. I think if those players fall weíll certainly consider any of those players, including Charles (laughs). But I think with the grouping you got Ė you got Griffin. You got Riley. You got Hightower. Greene weíve looked at a lot of tape of. Monroe. You got a group like that, depending on what position you want to kinda wanna go to at that point. Weíve fluctuated within that group, to be honest with you. And I say that honestly. I donít know exactly where our pick is just yet. But we will consider if any of those other kids fall. Thereís no question weíll consider that."