SEATTLE -- Just a few weeks before the start of the season, Storm players received a call from coach Dan Hughes.
It wasn't a preseason pep talk or belated congratulatory remarks for winning the WNBA championship six months ago.
Instead, he told each player he had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I was devastated," Storm center Mercedes Russell said. "Cancer has taken so many lives; it's affected a lot, thousands, millions of people. So things like that are very unfortunate. I felt for him."
While undergoing an emergency appendicitis surgery in early April, doctors found a cancerous carcinoid tumor in Hughes' colon. The diagnosis came as a shock to the 64-year-old.
"I can't name one member of my family that has cancer," Hughes said. "But in an odd story way, and after talking to several people that have dealt with cancer, the fact that they found it when doing something else, I was really fortunate that the appendicitis led to that discovery. They were able to get it at a stage that the spread of the disease wasn't as bad."
In May, Hughes had surgery to remove the tumor, which included a sample of 24 lymph nodes from his colon. After that came a five-week hiatus from his coaching responsibilities.
Hughes, who has been back to his regular coaching duties for three weeks, has a newfound appreciation for his health and for hoops. But most important, his time away has given him perspective.
"It's like an athlete being back from being hurt; you've rehabbed, you've done all those things, and now you're just thinking about functioning within the team," Hughes said. "There's life, and then there's the game of basketball. You're pretty fortunate when you go through journeys of health and you can come back and do what you do. That has never quite (been) lost on me no matter how high or low I get."
During his absence, Hughes learned how to be a coach while not being on the court.