RON HOWARD: Once again I would like to introduce WNBA President Donna Orender and Coach Dan Hughes from the San Antonio Silver Stars.
DONNA ORENDER: The WNBA Coach of the Year award presented by AOL.com, much like our player recognitions this year as you can tell there are a lot of tight races for all of these awards. And I guess I think we should all be pretty pleased that there is some controversy about who is on the WNBA first team and who is on the WNBA second team. And we see that kind of competition and discussion going around about our coaches as well, because there were incredible performances this year. We're seeing two of them a little bit later this afternoon, of course and Coach Coyle in New York who did an outstanding job and Bo who was able to double the performance in Chicago.
But I can tell you that Coach Dan Hughes of the San Antonio Silver Stars is obviously no stranger to the WNBA. Concluding his ninth year with the league. Starting I guess in Cleveland? Or starting in Charlotte?
DAN HUGHES: Charlotte.
DONNA ORENDER: Starting in Charlotte, spending five years between Charlotte and Cleveland before being called to San Antonio. He was called to San Antonio with great expectations and I can tell you that in three short years he has turned that team around. Talk about an impact player. As both the head coach and general manager, Dan has built a stellar roster, of promising young talent and veteran superstars.
He can boast all rookie team member Camille Little and All WNBA team members Sophia Young and Becky Hammon. Both of them also WNBA All Stars this season. Under Dan's leadership the San Antonio Silver Stars enjoyed a 14 game turn around, finishing the season at 20 14. Absolutely a franchise record for most wins in a season.
And to watch the fan base and the excitement in San Antonio grow, marry up to the Spurs fan base, that's also been pretty exciting this year.
He also had an Achilles we were just talking about whether he called Tamika, because he had a torn Achilles, same leg, right one this year, so you might see him on the sidelines, sitting with his boot, but obviously it was a boot that had the right impact. He led San Antonio back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. And two of the most exciting series I would tell you in league history.
Dan is familiar with this award. When you're a good coach you're a good coach always, having won it in 2001. Again we are honored as a league and I'm privileged as the president of this league to present the 2007 WNBA Coach of the Year award to Coach Dan Hughes of the San Antonio Silver Stars. (Applause).
DAN HUGHES: Appreciate the kind words. When Donna mentioned to me that I had won the WNBA Coach of the Year sponsored by AOL.com, I tell you the emotions I kind of took a step back and just you have to realize that the story behind this award has to do with a lot of people. I'm the one that's being put here in front of you. But to be honest with you, the only reason that I'm here is because of the story that especially when I had Achilles tendon surgery it created a coaching situation unlike any of the other 30 years I've ever had. And I called on Brian Agler, who has been head coach in this league to really step forward and kind of take a leadership role with our team. And he did that magnificently. I asked Olaf Lange and Sandy Brondello to take larger roles as assistants. I asked the team that we had brought together pretty new to make this work. And it is amazing, I just, I just took a step back and thanked God for surrounding me with such good people. Because to see them go to work and to see them get energized, it was a real lesson in trust.
After coaching 30 years, you kind of get comfortable in what a coach is. And it shook that all up for me. And so this year, I just had to reflect on that and make sure the story was told of how many people really contributed to this award that is coming in my name.
And secondly this team that I coached, and I've been involved with 30, and they're all special in their own way, but this is a very unique group of people. That came together, grew as a basketball team, made things work, in a way unlike any other that I've ever had in 30 years. So the story goes back to an element of teamwork among a lot of people.
In accepting this award, I accept it on behalf of that team, because to me that is an incredible story and I'm just so glad I had a small part in that being told. Thank you.
Q. Could you talk about the importance of bringing Hammon and Riley into the mix?
DAN HUGHES: It was very important. It kind of broke down in the trade for Ruth came first. And what that did for us, it gave us we hated to give up Katie Feenstra who I drafted and really appreciated, but we really needed a veteran who could help our schemes defensively. Who could help pull together offensively what we wanted to do in a veteran way, in the way that Ruth kind of does. And what it also did, it opened a door I think for other players to look at San Antonio Silver Stars and say, "You know what, I think a lot of Ruth Riley, I want to play with a teammate like Ruth Riley."
So it opened a door to an Erin Buescher and the only thing that I'm sad about is that the people didn't get to see her in the playoffs because Erin Buescher was having a fantastic year before her ACL surgery and that she suffered about mid season. Just a phenomenal year and she will be back and I'm so looking forward to putting her with this group. But she joined us as free agent. And then the trade for Becky, that was for us, that final piece. I just felt very fortunate that things fell in line that that could happen. Because we brought a player there who I had coached against and I had high expectations for Becky. It was an easy sell for me to tell our people what she was going to do for this team, but she exceeded that. And that's pretty hard to do when you're talking about what we were going to give up to get her.
The impact of players on that team and the fact of how they wove together was a really special thing to watch. And catapulted I think by those players that joined us off this past off season.
Q. On draft day it was a big day for you guys because you made the trade for Becky, but you also picked up Camille Little. Can you kind of reflect on how good that day ended up being now.
DAN HUGHES: That was a special day. As it was in Cleveland, I think the vibes were good, because I had so enjoyed my time in Cleveland.
But we're going through the draft scenario and we knew we were trading away number two to get Becky and we knew there was, sitting right next to you, players that we would love to have had. But now we're picking at 17. And we're we got all these scenarios. And to be absolute with you on not one scenario did I have Camille in it. Because I didn't think there was any way I would get a chance to draft her.
But as it started getting closer the excitement in the board room just started going off the charts, because I'm like, she could get there, she could get there, she could get there. And there was an absolute celebration that probably unlike a 17th pick anywhere was having around the league, because we thought she could help us, there was a role for her to play.
And what players find out is that it's not always where you're drafted it's where do you fit. And there was a fit there. We had a fit, we had a place, we could see her playing there. And it was a, as it turned out especially with the injury to Erin, we had her role was significant to begin with, but it went even more significant. And she just had an incredibly good year. And I'm so glad she's honored, because she helped us in ways like defense, she helped us with rebounding, she helped us with the energy to guard special people in our league. And that was recognized.
And I'm just so appreciative that people stepped forward and said, hey, here's a rookie that did these thinks for this team.
So it was a great day. When you look at Becky and Camille coming out that have particular day it changed our franchise.
Q. What do you expect to see from your team next year after making it to the conference Finals and losing two really close games?
DAN HUGHES: I think we got that evolution of playing together and we got the evolution of bringing Erin back and we'll try to help the team again. We're about making it better. But you're looking at a foundation that's been built and now we have got to take that foundation and continue to climb. And having the fact that they played together, having the fact that we can, knock on wood, return to health again, from that standpoint, I think it's an exciting time.
And I think that was evidenced by, we had 15,000 people at our last playoff game. And it was just fun to watch the community get behind this group of people. And not only did success bring that, but I think the quality of players and the way they messaged in our community was is going to be fun to watch and so 2008 can be another year that some steps can be taken with this basketball team.
Q. Part of the Riley trade, if I understand correctly was that the option to swap draft picks. Bill seemed fairly optimistic he might be in the lottery and certainly you didn't seem to share that optimism. I just wondered why you were comfortable making that and did you see this kind of turn around happening to do that deal?
DAN HUGHES: I thought that, it's fun, because that's the underlying tone of that trade had to do with what you talked about. Bill ran the option if we weren't very good he was going to have a lottery pick. And I tell you, I love dealing with Bill Laimbeer, but he's very smart in personnel matters. So he's playing the odds, we haven't been good, if we happen to not be good this year, he's going to get a lottery pick. I'm playing the odds I think we can be good. Sometimes you just got to take a stand and believe in what you're doing and this was players made it work for us.
The players we brought in made it work. And it was a, I think a good trade on his part, I think it was a good trade on our part. And it turned out to play out that way.
But, yeah, I, he was playing with the fact that maybe we wouldn't be good and he could not only have made that trade, but then have the ability for a lottery pick and a special draft coming up.
Q. Next two years drafts some major superstars from the college game are coming. I guess what are some of your thoughts on both those players, but also the overall depth you see in the next two years?
DAN HUGHES: I think you're seeing it in this league. Having been in the league in '99, taking over a team in Charlotte and watching what it took to be successful, what it took to have depth on your team, watching it grow. Understanding what a good team has to be in 2007. And knowing that we're going to be inundated with a continued high level of talent, I think that is the most telling statistic that I see about our league.
The quality of play continues to grow dramatically. And it is going to be helped again by a draft that I think will rival any of the others that you look back at and has potential to exceed in that regard.
From our standpoint I think it will have some depth too. I think that we have always had success with I like second round players. So I'm excited, not only for the feature players that you're hearing about, but I guarantee you there's going to be a couple second rounders coming out of this class that are going to be very good players and our challenge with, along with other teams, will be to identify which ones those are going to be. Because this class will not only be good at the top I think it will have some players in the second round who we'll be talking about once they become pros.
Q. How tough was it to trade Katie Feenstra and how good can she be?
DAN HUGHES: It was real tough. I had enjoyed every aspect of coaching Kay Katie. It was very hard. And to call her and tell her that, because she physically is just coming into understanding the game in many ways. And physically she's a very dominant low post scorer, a dominant rebounder in many ways. It was very difficult.
But I also felt like we needed, we were young, at many levels and we really needed a veteran in that mid level area, 27 to 29, who had been on good teams, who understood how to put the things together. And it was hard.
Bill asked for the right situation to fit his needs. And in our return we got a player who was going to put things together. But it was hard. I wish he would have asked for something else. To be absolutely honest with you, but he didn't.
RON HOWARD: Thank you very much. Once again we will conclude with a photo opportunity with Dan and with Donna.