Most of WNBA's older coaches OK with Florida virus risk

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FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault, right, gestures against the Las Vegas Aces during the second half of Game 1 of a WNBA playoff basketball series in Washington. Thibault knows that he could be at higher risk for severe illness if he gets the coronavirus because of his age. The 69-year-old coach didn't hesitate about going down to Florida with his team Monday, July 6, 2020, to prepare for the upcoming WNBA season. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

NEW YORK – Mike Thibault knows he could be at higher risk for severe illness if he gets the coronavirus because of his age.

The 69-year-old Washington Mystics coach didn't hesitate about going down to Florida with his team Monday to prepare for the virus-delayed WNBA season.

“There’s no guarantee. Living in D.C., I wear my mask and stay away from people,” said Thibault, who turns 70 in September. "You go to the grocery store or have food delivered, there is some risk involved in your life. That’s the nature of the virus. I'm not at the same risk as that grocery store worker or restaurant owner heading to work every day. We're going to a controlled environment.”

Thibault is one of five head coaches in the league over 60, including three over 65 — which puts them in the higher risk category, according to the CDC. No other major sports league has as high a percentage (41.6) of head coaches over 60.

“It's our job,” said Dallas Wings coach Brian Agler, who is one of the five. “I'm not more concerned because it's Florida, as the virus is hitting everywhere right now.”

Florida is one of the current hot spots for the virus in the U.S., with the state reporting more than 21,000 new cases this weekend, including more than 11,000 on Saturday.

While four of the five sexagenarian head coaches plan on being in Florida, Seattle’s Dan Hughes announced last month that he won’t coach after he was determined to be at higher risk for severe illness if he contracted COVID-19. The 65-year-old Hughes missed nine games last year after having a cancerous tumor removed from his digestive tract.

“I know that Dan had a difficult decision to forego the 2020 WNBA season," said Indiana Fever coach Marianne Stanley, who is 66. “My colleagues and I will certainly miss seeing him on the sidelines this summer; however, we all respect his decision to prioritize his health at this time and continue to wish him well.”