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September 12, 2018

Dan Hughes

Seattle, Washington

Storm - 98, Mystics - 82

DAN HUGHES: Well, first, I want to congratulate the Washington Mystics in several ways. The team that we played in their own way are champions. You watch those two that were just here, I mean, they embody this league in the most positive ways, and they're coached by the winningest coach and to me a guy that every year does an exceptional job. Great fans here, so I want to give credit there.

But I also want to recognize, I think this was our year. I think that this team that I came into was a very, very special group. All year you could just kind of see the escalation.

But I think everything they did from the time I met them was culminated tonight. I mean, nothing that we did satisfied them until tonight. You know, and I think that's a very special group that feels that way.

When I got the job in October and I talked to them, I could sense it. When I saw them in the off-season wherever they were, I felt it. They continued to believe in themselves and improve themselves and use the year as a gauge to get here. And this particular game tonight, you could just see all kinds of little plays.

A coach when he's coaching a game, there's a couple times you either see your team make a play or you see the other team make a play, and you say to yourself, you know what, we're going to win this game or we're in trouble. But there were several of those plays today.

And I'll tell you one that probably nobody here noticed. Sue Bird is out on the wing guarding. Ariel Atkins put the ball down. She literally ran to the edge of the lane to get that, and I said to myself, you know what, when you've got your leader making that play, there's probably going to be a good result before this thing's over. But so many people to point to.

Sue obviously, but Stewie was just amazing. She truly was the MVP of this league, she truly was the MVP of these Finals. God blessed me with an opportunity to coach her, and I will be forever grateful, because she is just a very special player in so many ways.

But there's some untold stories here. Alysha Clark to me embodied Seattle basketball, the way she guarded, the way she went to the boards, the relentless nature with an intelligence about her. Amazing. And Sami Whitcomb. Sami Whitcomb battles, battled, battled, moved up the ladder in the Playoffs, and really, really impacted this basketball team in a big way.

Jewell Loyd turned her game from a scorer into a complete player. She helped us in so many ways in just different things that we did. So many others, but this was a very special team. This was a special night for them, and I just couldn't be happier for the result of their hard work.

Q. I remember a conversation we had just after the lottery when you did not get Breanna Stewart. Obviously that was a long time ago and it was also not so long ago. I wondered how often you've sort of thought back to the many things that had to happen for you to go from that just about three years ago to today?
DAN HUGHES: Boy, I've thought about it a lot. I mean, you get to a point in life where you think you know what's in the future, and then sometimes you have no earthly idea what's about to happen. The one thing I will always treasure is when this opportunity started to develop, I looked at my wife, and she looked back at me, and her words were, you've got to do this, and boy, that was profound beyond belief, because being a part of this team, being a part -- and I'm so happy -- one of the first things I said to Sue Bird was I want to give you -- be a part of a team that gives you another chance to win a championship. I remember when I took the job, I flew to see Jewell Loyd, I flew to see Stewie, and you could see the three of them had a bond that was going to develop, and develop it did.

To coach Stewie is just -- I have been blessed to coach. Some of the players I coached through the years contacted me today, and somehow I hope they feel a little bit of this, too, because I've had so many players give me so much heart, so much work, and this moment I will cherish, but I will also cherish the relationships of those players in all these years that I've coached.

Q. You'd mentioned earlier about a play here and there you think we're going to win or we're in trouble. But they closed it to single digits and then Stewie gets that three-point play and then Natasha gets the bucket and you're up 10. Can you address that sequence? Was that the point you thought you were going to win the game?
DAN HUGHES: I did. You know, they're a quality team, and they're going to come at you. Then the question is what are we going to do with it. But Stewie has immense talent, but the toughness, that's the part that I absolutely cherish. And Natasha Howard, what an incredible story to me, and the way she realized that opportunity and what she did and how she blended with this basketball team, because a lot of this team was the same. I come in, Natasha comes in, but the way that she just blended with it, such a huge part of this result was Natasha Howard.

Q. My question is in regard to the first half especially with the front court when Natasha Howard, Breanna Stewart and Alysha Clark. Their three-point game was on point. I think it was eight of nine threes that they were making. Could you give your thoughts on how they played in the first half to break the lead open tonight?
DAN HUGHES: It's interesting because if you watch the evolution of this team they kind of went from, okay, we've got some talent, so okay, we're a pretty good team, so okay, now we're in first place, and now there's going to be some tough games down the stretch. What are we learning? I went right back to the last series we had because that series with Phoenix was really important for us, really important for us in a lot of ways. We won the two home games, went on the road, last two, and I remember saying to the team maybe there was a reason we had to go on this journey to understand how tough it's going to be and what we're going to do, and when we got to that moment, I thought, okay, here's the chance. Did we learn something. Are we going to play to our strengths. And they did. And they did.

We had learned something. And this was a team that constantly was looking to learn something that could help them be a champion, and a champion they are.

Q. Breanna Stewart was dominant all series long. She had 30 points, eight rebounds in this game. Natasha Howard had a double-double with 29-14, Alysha Clark 15-9. All three of them were dominant, they're a young front court unit. Looks like this team might have the makings of a dynasty.
DAN HUGHES: Well, I think we've got some work to do, but if you're asking me have we hit a ceiling, no. There's still growth in this team. And they're within -- now, we were very fortunate health-wise, and I think -- I remember talking to Gregg Popovich, and I tried to pick his mind about championships, and one of the things he said, you've got to be lucky. You've got to be healthy. And you've got to have your players that you need at that point. And we were. We were blessed to be a healthy team in a lot of ways. But yes, I think you haven't hit -- this team still has potential, I think, to stay or even greater from where they are.

Q. Specific to Stewie, to have someone -- she seemed throughout the night like she had been here before, which in many ways she has, though not specifically WNBA Finals, but to win her first at 24 and to be in place, it seems like there's an inflection point in the league here, the likes of which we haven't really seen since Maya won her first. Do you see it that way and do you see us at the cusp of something significant here?
DAN HUGHES: It's interesting you say that because in the course of the game, I happened to look down the other side and just down a little bit, and all of a sudden there's CD and Geno sitting, and I knew how well she was coached, and I knew she had not only been coached but had been in these moments, and that wasn't lost on me, trust me. That was not lost on me.

But I think they put a lot of work in to get here. If they continue to work in a way to get themselves ready to do it again, they're going to be a team that has a lot of potential to be in the group, and if we can stay healthy, we'll be one of the teams that will have a chance to do this again.

Q. The bench and the starters get a lot of attention, you get a lot of attention as the head coach. Can you talk about your connection and the importance of the assistant coaches in this championship?
DAN HUGHES: Absolutely. Gary Kloppenburg, defensively all year, when I came in I asked him to stay with me, and I said, I want you to do the defense and we'll work with it. And I want to tell you, and I love the fact his father -- they share a similar philosophy, and I had read his father's book, but Gary had so much to do with the defensive end. He had so much to do with bringing a presence to me that made us better, and whatever -- and I watched all year because we were a team that offense had some gifts, but defensively we got better, we got better, we got better, we got better. It was a gradual thing. But that's when I knew we were going to be a special team. But please know, everything defensively that we accomplished and did, it was highlighted by him.

Crystal Robinson I asked to come with us. I had played against Crystal, and Crystal brought -- what I think this team got was some grit and some toughness, she brought that, and the players' relationship.

And our player development coach, Ryan, an incredible job. I mean, right up to yesterday, I'm watching him out on the court squeezing every moment he had from them. Amazing staff. Trust me, and I delegate a lot. That was my posture where I'm at in my career, so they absolutely share in this moment, and they were -- we're not here without them, okay. We're not here.

Q. You've been around the league for the whole. In the early years the league was like a lot of college conferences these days. You don't have to do a lot in certain places to win it, and that's what it was like back then. This year it was night after night. How special does it make it?
DAN HUGHES: It makes it incredibly special. You feel very blessed. You feel like you got an extra period to play that you didn't expect. I'm still trying to find the right words, and I'm a guy that can usually find the right words. But this is a very special moment that I'm a part of this special group, and I think I'm just realizing how special they really were. I'm going to tell you what, they were special in November, January, and when we started April 29th, and they're special tonight.

Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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