- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) - WNBA coach Dan Hughes is ready for a new challenge.

The veteran San Antonio Stars coach announced last month that this would be his final year on the bench. The franchise has already started to prepare for his departure, announcing former player Ruth Riley as the new general manager - a position previously held by Hughes.

“I have truly enjoyed every moment of my time in the WNBA, but I reached a point personally and professionally where it’s time for a change,” Hughes said. “I know I want to stay involved in basketball, just not sure exactly what that is yet.”

The 20th season of the WNBA starts Saturday, when the defending champion Minnesota Lynx face the Phoenix Mercury at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Stars open at home against the Atlanta Dream.

Hughes, who is entering his 11th season with San Antonio, knows he wants to see his son play basketball at Air Force next year. He will be a freshman at the service academy.

“I want to watch as many of his games that I can,” said Hughes, who turned 61 last month, before his team played in an exhibition tournament in Connecticut last week.

The veteran coach was proud of the fact that Riley could come in and take over as the team’s general manager. She’s the second former WNBA player to hold that role in the league. Penny Toler has the same position in Los Angeles.

“It’s great that we can get former players involved in the league in front office positions,” Hughes said. “Ruth will be very good at this.”

Riley said she approached Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who she got to know when she was playing in San Antonio, and asked to shadow him. Buford, also the president of sports franchises for Spurs Sports and Entertainment, responded by offering her the Stars GM position. While it may seem strange to have a rookie general manager, Riley knows she can turn to her former coach if she has questions. He said he’ll help her learn the ropes and be involved, if wanted, when the team looks for a new coach at the end of the season.

“It’s been an incredible asset to have him,” Riley said. “He’s walked me through some of the basic processes and procedures. As a rookie GM, I didn’t know how it all works and I’m happy to take some things off his plate that he’s been juggling for years.”

Hughes said he’s going to enjoy his last season on the bench no matter how the Stars play. They finished with an 8-26 record last season. San Antonio drafted Moriah Jefferson with the No. 2 pick last month.

“We have a really talented, young group,” he said. “It’s just going to take them some time.”

San Antonio went 0-3 in the preseason but was missing star guard Kayla McBride, who was still playing overseas.

While Riley and Hughes don’t know yet who will succeed him on the bench, one name that is sure to surface is Becky Hammon. The former San Antonio Stars great is currently an assistant with the Spurs. Riley, who was a teammate of Hammon, said that it was unlikely she’d come back.

“We would ideally love to have her on the WNBA side,” Riley said. “I think she is gaining so much knowledge having been on the Spurs coaching staff with Pop. I don’t see her transitioning to the (WNBA) side just yet.”

That decision can wait. For now, Hughes and Riley are just focused on the present and the upcoming season.


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