Dan Hughes: An Unforgettable Musical Journey

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His Spurs.com column will appear every Wednesday.

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Dan Hughes
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

Dan Hughes was sitting down for a slice of rock ‘n roll heaven – lunch with Richie Furay, founding member of the 1960s band, Buffalo Springfield – when he was hit with the unexpected.

"So Dan," Richie began, "are you going to coach again?"

Dan was in Mountain View, Calif, to watch an historic reunion of Buffalo Springfield in October, to listen to Furay, Neil Young and Stephen Stills jam at the Shoreline Amphitheater before 20,000 fans.

”Stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down.”

The classic song, “For What It’s Worth,” Dan knew by heart. The band, well, he’d been a fan forever. Now here he was, on the day of the big show, about to break bread with a member of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, and the first words spoken were about his future.

After 33 years in coaching, Dan had relinquished his role as Silver Stars head coach in 2010 to become full-time general manager. It was a bit odd, he admitted, not working the sidelines on game day. But coach again?

“I don’t know,” Dan responded.

Three months later, the uncertainty vanished. Dan phoned Richie with breaking news. “Looks like I’m coaching again,” he said.

Let it be known that the Silver Stars new coach is a rock ‘n roll enthusiast, a husband whose wife teaches music, a father whose daughter plays the piano and cello, a guy who doesn’t play an instrument, can’t keep time and wouldn’t know a quarter note from a dotted eighth note.

“I can’t play anything,” Dan says. “But I love, absolutely love music.”

There are two pianos in his home. There is one special song in his heart, a song that carried Dan Hughes on the musical adventure of a lifetime. …

The Rev. E. Thurman Walker was going to marry Dan and Mary Hughes’ daughter, Sara, in 2010. But months before the wedding, the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church died. As the family searched for a replacement, Dan remembered a book he’d read about Richie Furay, a rock ‘n roller-turned pastor.

The book included the name of Furay’s church in Colorado and an e-mail address. Dan fired off a query: Do you do weddings? Richie politely declined Dan’s request. But a few days later, Dan received a second note from Richie: If you still want me, I’ll be there.

On Jan. 30, 2010, Sara and Craig Bayer were married on the 18th hole of Canyon Springs Golf Club. Richie officiated and pulled out his guitar. “Sara,” Richie said, “I want to sing a song I sang at my daughter’s wedding. Only I want to sing this to you.”

Richie strummed, he sang. The 18th hole became a cathedral. “I just started crying,” Dan says. “I couldn’t hold my emotions. Watching the joy on my daughter’s face, man I’ve never experienced anything better than that.”

It didn’t matter that the weather was cold. Richie’s voice provided a warm, unforgettable touch to a remarkable ceremony that included one more surprise. Dan introduced Richie to a longtime family friend, David Spero, who had managed Joe Walsh and other rock performers.

From that introduction came a business partnership. Today, David manages Richie’s musical career. “Somehow,” Dan says, “I think God had a hand in that wedding in a lot of ways.”

On a warm Sunday afternoon, Dan is recalling the events on his daughter’s first wedding anniversary. Richie Furay, pastor and rocker, flies in from Colorado at the request of a man he’s never met.

Mr. I Can’t Play An Instrument makes such an impression, Richey invites him to a Buffalo Springfield reunion in California, the band’s first get-together in 42 years.

“There’s something happening here. What it is aint exactly clear.”

It’s been a wild 12-month ride. One day he’s out of coaching and looking for a minister to marry his daughter. Then he’s calling minister-musician Richie Furay to say he’s back in the game.

Today, Sara is coaching volleyball and basketball at a high school in Nebraska. To relax, she unwinds with the cello. Seventh grade son Bryce is playing basketball and learning the piano from his mother.

Dan, meanwhile, is content to let his family play on. He’s got a team to coach, a roster to manage, talent to acquire. Music? He’s got all of Richie’s material at home. But there’s one soundtrack, Heartbeat of Love, that stays with him at all times.

The song Richie sang at Sara’s wedding.