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Hughes was absent for the start of the 2019 season as well after being diagnosed with cancer in April 2019. The team said the 65-year-old underwent a medical assessment, which indicated he’s potentially “at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” leading to his decision to miss the season.
With Hughes unavailable, Gary Kloppenburg will become the interim head coach, with former Storm guard Noelle Quinn promoted to the role of associate head coach.
“I am saddened that I won’t be able to travel with the team as everyone knows how much love I have for this organization,” Hughes said in a statement. “I am thankful to be in good health and looking forward to supporting Coach Klopp and the staff and players in any way I can this season.”
The Storm are expected to be a title contender.
Seattle finished 18-16 and reached the second round of the playoffs in 2019, a respectable finish given the fact the team was without 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird.
With Stewart and Bird back healthy, the Storm opted against any significant changes. They traded Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to the Connecticut Sun, acquired Morgan Tuck in a sign-and-trade with Connecticut, and signed Epiphanny Prince. Ezi Magbegor, Seattle’s 2019 first-round pick, is joining the squad as well after staying overseas last season.
The nucleus of the Storm’s 2018 title-winning roster remains, though it’s fair to wonder how good the 39-year-old Bird and Stewart, who has seen limited action since rupturing her achilles, can be relative to their 2018 selves. Hughes’ absence provides another variable, even though Kloppenburg and Quinn have plenty of familiarity with the roster.
His departure isn’t the first for the WNBA as it prepares to open its 22-game slate in Florida. Kristi Toliver, Chiney Ogwumike, Natasha Cloud and Jonquel Jones are among the players have opted out.