Brian Agler likes to think he's just "a regular parent" when he sits in the stands of his daughter's high school basketball games. But Taylor Agler knows better.
"He tries to be a normal parent," laughs Taylor, a freshman at Oletangy Orange High School in Ohio and the point guard for All Ohio Red. "But he'll always be a coach."
And while most players are taught to ignore the advice parents offer from their perch in the bleachers, Taylor knows that when your dad is the head coach of the WNBA's Seattle Storm, he probably has some good advice to offer. So she, and her teammates, pay attention.
"What he says, my teammates and I believe him, so we kinda listen," Taylor Agler said. "I've learned to stop arguing with him and listen to whatever he says because he's right."
She pauses, and lets on a sigh.
"Only in basketball though."
Make no mistake -- Taylor Agler may understand that her dad knows his Xs and Os and can teach her the proper footwork for a step-back jumper, but when it comes to other stuff, she falls right in line with most girls her age.
"She's a typical teenager," laughs Brian Agler.
But the difference is that this typical teenager grew up in gyms around the country, tagging along with her dad when he went off to coach some of the leading players in the women's game. Brian Agler compiled one of the best records in the now-defunct American Basketball League, leading the Columbus Quest to an 82-22 record, and two ABL championships from 1996-99. He has been a WNBA head coach for five years, coaching at Minnesota before taking over in Seattle in 2008. He also had assistant stints with San Antonio and Phoenix.
"We talk the game quite a bit," Brian Agler said. "She's always been a junkie and a gym rat."
Taylor Agler sees the floor well, whipping passes across the court to open teammates. She has a textbook shot, and the footwork on her step-back jumper can truly shake a defender. Like most coaches' kids, Taylor has an understanding of the game that exceeds most players her age. She says that Katie Smith, who played for Brian Agler in the ABL, has always been her favorite player, and she copied as much from Smith's game as she could.
Taylor's mom, Robin Agler, has tried to explain to both her kids -- the Agler's son, Bryce, will be a freshman at The College of Wooster in the fall -- that the opportunities they've had to mingle with some of the world's best athletes are unique.
Few kids, for example, would get a phone call from WNBA standout Lauren Jackson encouraging them to fight through homesickness when away at camp. That's happened to Taylor.
"I was at basketball camp away from home and Lauren asked my dad how I was and he told her," Taylor Agler recalled. "She called me that night and said she had to do that, too, in Australia and she would be sent away for months when she didn't get to see her parents. That helped me a lot."
Taylor has also been the recipient of loads of advice, the best and funniest of which came from shooting guard Becky Hammon, whom Brian coached in San Antonio.
"She told me to 'Rule the ground and not the air,' " Taylor Agler remembered. "Because we're both white and can't jump."
Taylor and Bryce like to dish out their own suggestions, too, and sometimes sit down with Brian to talk with him about who the Storm should try to draft -- Taylor was very happy with Seattle's selection of point guard Allison Lacey -- or trade.
This week marks the beginning of longest, hardest stretch for the Agler family. While Robin, Bryce and Taylor finish up school in Ohio, Brian has left for Seattle, where the Storm started training camp on Sunday. Because she misses so much school for AAU ball already, Taylor won't be able to see her dad in person for almost six weeks.
"I don't like this part at all," Taylor Agler said.
Brian will get to see Taylor play on the AAU circuit only a few times this summer, and she'll spend her off weeks flying out to Seattle with Robin and Bryce.
"It's tough but we're trying to do what's best for our kids," Robin Agler said, adding that the Agler family has racked up more frequent flier miles than most people could fathom. "Like all families we have good days and bad days, days you wanna throw in the towel. But in the long run I think it's a good situation."
And even though they're not together in person, Taylor and Brian talk on the phone so much that most days, it feels like they're right next to each other.
Taylor doesn't hesitate to proclaim herself "a total daddy's girl" and estimates that she talks on the phone with Brian "at least three or four times a day."
He offers advice and encouragement after games, and, just like any coach, plenty of criticism. Taylor insists that she likes being given feedback by her dad, and it's only once in a while that she loses her patience with him.
"Oh yeah, there are days I say, 'I don't want you to coach me!' but his dad coached him, so he gets it," Taylor Agler said. "He gives me time to cool off, then we're back at it."
And Brian, for his part, tries to play the parent role as much as he can.
At the Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, Va., Brian Agler sat in the stands quietly, murmuring under his breath, "don't be short," and "play smarter defense." When Taylor Agler picked up her fourth foul early in the second half, he stomped on the bleachers in frustration. They made eye contact as Taylor went to the bench, and he smiled.
"Well," he said, "I'm mostly a parent when I watch her …"
Later, Taylor Agler laughed, agreeing that an educated parent -- no matter how frustrated he gets -- is better than no parent at all.
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Lindsay Schnell is a staff writer for HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Oregon State University, she has been involved in the Oregon girls' basketball community for most her life as a player, high school coach, writer and fan. She also has been regular contributor to The Oregonian and won several awards for her writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.