- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Brian Agler remembers the neighbors driving by his house in Columbus, Ohio, watching him play basketball with his young children in the driveway.
"I'm sure they were thinking, There they are again," Agler said.
Taylor Agler remembers the buckets that she and older brother Bryce used to dig out to use instead of cones for their ballhandling drills and the short hoop her dad set up in the garage so they could get up some shots when it was freezing cold outside.
Bryce Agler, meanwhile, remembers tagging along to practice when his dad coached the Columbus Quest of the American Basketball League. His favorite players -- and playmates -- were Quest stars Katie Smith and Shannon Johnson.
"When I was in first grade, our school had this reward system: If you were good all week, you got a green light; if you weren't, you got a red light," Bryce said. "When I got a green light, Shannon and Katie would get to come over our house at the end of the week to hang out with me.
"We have always been around the game. It's in our blood."
The Seattle Storm coach's family has gotten so much more from basketball than they have given up because of it. Agler, one of the most successful coaches in women's pro basketball history with two championships, might have been gone for big chunks of time during his kids' early years, coaching summers in Minnesota or Seattle or making trips to scout players. But he has also boarded late-night flights to get home in time for a game the next day and been there for the big moments.
And those moments have paid off for the Agler children and their very proud dad.
Taylor Agler is playing Division I basketball, the starting point guard at Indiana as a freshman. Bryce Agler played two years of college basketball at Division III Wittenberg, where his father played and won a national title in 1977. He is now embarking on his own coaching career.
"They both have a passion for the game," Brian Agler, 55, said. "I introduced them to the game and gave them all kinds of experiences. But you have to get to the point where you see whether the passion comes from you or them. And we got to the point where the passion was theirs."
Taylor first played for her dad as a third-grader when he signed them up to play in a fourth-grade league in Columbus.
"We got our butts kicked, we were so bad," Taylor said. "We practiced two or three times a week and we did exactly the same drills for a year. And when we were in fourth grade, he put us in a fifth-grade league and we were good. That was the first time, later that summer when my dad got a job in Phoenix, that I learned I had to work out on my own to get better."
Taylor excelled as a high school player, spent her summers on the AAU circuit while her dad was coaching the Storm in Seattle, She earned a scholarship to Indiana, where she started 34 games last season for the Hoosiers. Brian sat courtside at nearly every one, just as he had over the years.
"He might have missed like 10 [games] all together," Taylor said. "In the summer [when he was coaching in the WNBA], he'd make sure I was on a good AAU team, that I was in good hands, and he would fly in whenever he could."
High school was the first time Taylor played for a coach other than her dad, and she said the biggest adjustment was hers. She would look for him in the stands, read the look on his face to see how she was playing. He still coaches her, and she still listens. She can't really help but.
"He and my mom have season tickets at Indiana and they sit on the court on the opposite end from our bench," Taylor said. "I always joke that my coach is yelling at me at one end and my dad is yelling at me on the other."
Brian Agler said he finds himself behaving more like a dad than a coach as he watches his daughter make the transition to college basketball. He stays out of conversations about the X's and O's and tried hard just to watch.
"You want your kids to do well, to have a positive experience and I get anxious for them," Agler said. "That's when the parent side of you comes out. Tight moments in games, coming into a big game with a lot on the line. It's all those things that make you realize you are just a dad now."
Bryce Agler, also a point guard during his playing days, said that when he was in high school, he and his father used to "butt heads."
"I'm not going to lie," Bryce said. "I used to think I knew everything. Looking back, I wish I would have listened more. I was so stubborn. Now I listen to everything."
Because Bryce wants to be a coach like his dad. And he wants to coach women's basketball, like his dad.
"It's what I've grown up with," said Bryce, who is coaching with the All Ohio Nike AAU program and looking for an assistant coaching job at the college level.
Bryce said he has the same love for good defense that has defined his father's teams through the years. Taylor thinks her big brother might be a little more offensive-minded.
Brian Agler is just proud of the coach his son is becoming.
"He has been a very supportive older sibling to Taylor, he's really, genuinely supported her," Agler said. "He's encouraged her, worked with her, been a big part of her maturation process.
"And he's got such a better demeanor than I did at that age. He has a way of getting along with everyone and he's a great communicator, not quite as edgy as I have been."
Considering the way his kids have followed in their father's passion, it seems he has communicated just fine.
17dBonnie D. Ford