Hughes Continues Work with USA Basketball

Prior to the start of 2011 training camp, head coach and general manager Dan Hughes will be spending three days in Las Vegas, Nev. with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team. One of four members on the USA Basketball selection committee, Hughes attends team workouts and training sessions in order to determine which athletes will represent the U.S. in international competition.

Hughes was invited to join the committee in 2009 as USA Basketball was preparing to put together a team for the 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 2010 Olympic Games.

“To me, it was a great honor,” Hughes said. “I’ve never been involved with USA Basketball. Coming from the men’s game 12 years ago to be privileged to be able to be part of the group that selects our world championship team and our Olympic team, that was humbling and very exciting.”

Hughes blend of experience as a men’s basketball coach, women’s collegiate coach, women’s professional coach and team general manager gives him a unique outlook when making decisions on which athletes will have the opportunity to represent our country.

“It is a great experience for me because being a coach and being on this committee is a little different, not everyone on the committee has been a coach,” Hughes said. “For me to watch the process that (head coach) Geno (Auriemma) and the coaches are taking, it is very educational for me, it helps me. Secondly, I kind of understand the process which comes into my role as a committee member. My role as general manager through the years is to evaluate talent but I’ve also coached the talent, that combination makes it very interesting. Like I do in anything I just try to accumulate as much evidence as I can for the decisions I have to make. That includes me being at practices, workouts, being present when training goes on as much as I can to help facilitate that body of evidence that I need to have to be a part of this decision.

During his year and a half on the committee to date, Hughes has relished the experience to work around the best players in the nation and some of the best coaches in the game. He has incorporated many of the lessons learned watching the national team into practices and strategy in San Antonio.

“One thing that stands out for me is being part of the training process, being able to watch the commitment the players make,” Hughes explained. “Being able to be on site and watching the teaching and the evolution of the coaching has helped me grow in some ways. I’ve learned things, I’ve learned about things. One of the things that you do as you become an older coach is you keep wanting to get better. Being around this process has caused me to get better in thinking about basketball, in evaluating players, about systems, about international teams and how they do things. It has just really improved me. I’m better for the experience as a basketball coach and general manager.”

Hughes spent part of October with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team in the Czech Republic at the FIBA World Championships. He watched as Team USA assembled a nine-game run, defeating the Czech Republic, 89-69, in the gold medal game to earn its first World Championship gold since 2002. The U.S. women lead the all-time World Championship medal race with 11, including eight gold.

“What was really fun for me was to be with the team in the Czech Republic when they won the World Championship,” Hughes said. “To have watched and gone through the different challenges they had to face and then to be there on that day, at that game. We were playing the Czech Republic in the Czech Republic, there was not a seat on any step or anything, anywhere. It was one of the most unique celebrations I’ve ever seen in my life. We won the game so you had the USA celebrating the gold, you had the Czech Republic celebrating the silver and you had Spain celebrating the bronze with equal vigor. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in an athletic competition where I saw three teams that all shared a celebration that way, it was really unique to be in that international competition in the championships. I’ll never forget looking and saying, USA is happy, Czech Republic is happy and Spain is happy, that never happens where three teams in international competition are all happy on the same given night. That was a real privilege to be part of that.”

During the three-day Las Vegas training camp, Hughes and his fellow selection committee members will be evaluating players for the 2012 Olympic Games before the WNBA season begins. He will return to San Antonio to begin training camp on May 15.