It’s a Knowles family affair for Port Angeles girls basketball team

PORT ANGELES — It’s the second quarter of a blowout against Olympic League rival Port Townsend, but Mike Knowles isn’t happy.

His starting point guard just needlessly committed her third foul of the game and is standing only a few feet away from the seething Port Angeles girls basketball coach.

“Stop pressing!” he screams loud enough that the Roughrider gymnasium comes to a standstill.

Just another tense moment between player and coach?

Sure, but with one notable exception: The subject of Mike’s ire is also the youngest of his two children, senior guard Alison Knowles.

Not exactly the sort of father-daughter moment you’d find in a Hallmark card, but it’s one Alison and Mike know better than most after four years together in the Rider basketball program.

“There is a fine line between dad and coach, and no one will understand that line unless you’ve been through it,” said Alison, the Riders’ top passer at 5.5 assists per game this year.

“It’s really hard to go from the person who is screaming their guts at you to it’s my dad sitting across at the table from me [at home] when deep down you want to yell at him.”

Somehow, the two have managed to do just that the past four years without affecting the Riders’ chemistry on the court.

Perhaps that’s because basketball has been a part of their father-daughter relationship since Alison “was in diapers.”

Growing up a Rider

Alison tagged along with Mike’s girls teams as much as she could when he coached Port Angeles to a 112-21 record and four state berths from 1997-2002.

If she wasn’t on the bench cheering the Riders on, she was serving as their ball girl as an impressionable 8- or 9-year-old.

And whenever her mother, Laura, would allow it, she’d join them on the team bus for the ride home.

“[The players] were like gods. They were just the world to me,” Alison said, recalling former Riders like Mandy Wood, Ashley Payne and Lindsay Sather.

Added Mike, “I would have her in my arms when she was 3 and 4 years old walking around the floor coaching. She was just glued to what I said.”

Once Alison was 9 years old and her brother, Jay, 11, Mike decided to resign his position from the girls program.

He had a new job as a student counselor at Roosevelt Middle School and he said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Not surprisingly, a lot of those extra hours were spent on the hardwood.

He served as an assistant coach one year for Alison’s AAU team, then took over as the head coach the year after that.

The way Alison tells it, just about all of her development as a player can be linked to her father.

“It’s always been him and me on the court together,” Alison said. “That’s how we made a connection. It wasn’t awkward at all, and it will be sad when it’s over.”

As she moved on to middle school, Mike took a job as an assistant to ex-Rider boys basketball coach Erik Lathen while Jay was in the program.

It was then that Mike got a lesson in just how hard it is to coach your own child in high school.

“He was a little harder to coach just because he got a little more angry and had a little more emotions and stuff,” Mike said.

“He played hard, but [Alison] and I were able to leave the father-daughter [relationship] off the floor. My son struggled with that.

“He always saw me as dad, and he couldn’t separate the dad-coach [thing].”

It hasn’t always been easy for father and daughter, either.

Proving ground

Alison always thought she’d end up playing for her dad as a Rider.

Yet after Mike re-applied for the girls coaching position when it opened back up following the 2006-07 season (Alison’s freshman year), he lost out to area AAU coach Kevin Ruble.

Only after Ruble resigned one game into the 2007-08 season because of health reasons did Mike regain his old job.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Alison, who had a chance to prove herself to another coach before Mike took over.

He has yet to show her any special treatment since, according to four-year varsity post Taylyn Jeffers.

“I wouldn’t want to say he’s harder on her all the time, but he definitely expects her to push herself as much as everyone else does,” said Jeffers, a teammate of Alison’s since middle school.

“He definitely doesn’t let her attitude go. He jumps on her as soon as he sees it.”

And whenever he yells at Alison?

“It’s just him yelling at another player,” Jeffers said. “I’ve gotten it. Jessica [Madison] has gotten it. We’ve all gotten that Mike yells at least once a season. It’s nothing new.”

The Riders have had loads of success ever since Knowles returned, winning four league titles and going 67-21 overall with Alison a major contributor.

Despite all of that winning, there have been a few bumps in the road.

Alison pointed to her junior year in particular as one that she had a hard time dealing with her dad as a coach.

But things have gone much more smoothly this season, she said.

“This year we’ve really made a connection, and I think we understand each other a lot more this year,” Alison said. “It’s made it a lot more fun.”

Now that the Riders (18-4 overall) are just one win away from clinching their first state berth since 2004 — they play Olympic tonight at 6 p.m. at Foss High School in the second round of the Class 2A West Central District tournament — it could be even better.

More in Sports

For Outdoors-PDN-240412
Dave Johnson caught this chinook while fishing off of Neah Bay. The Pacific Fishery Management Council adopted ocean salmon season recommendations on Wednesday.
OUTDOORS: Neah Bay salmon season opening June 22

Coastal Cleanup targets Jefferson County state parks April 20

Forks’ Brody Owen, left, goes head-to-toe with Hoquiam’s Daniel Rosales on Wednesday evening at Spartan Stadium. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)
PREP ROUNDUP: Forks can’t find the net against Hoquiam

Forks had goal-scoring opportunities, including a penalty kick, but couldn’t… Continue reading

Port Angeles' Alex Angevine slides home safely against Sequim as catcher Ayden Holland waits for a throw. In the on-deck circle is Port Angeles' Ezra Townsend. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
PREP BASEBALL: Riders able to hold off Wolves at Civic Field

Guttormsen outduels Staples in pitchers’ battle

Sequim's Guillermo Salgado dribbles the ball against Kingston in Sequim on Tuesday. (Michael Dashiell/for Peninsula Daily News)
PREP ROUNDUP: Sequim soccer wins game for teammate

Adrian Mendez has been in hospital for several weeks

Port Angeles Roughriders
PREP SOFTBALL ROUNDUP: PA ranked No. 1 after beating North Kitsap

The Port Angeles softball team showed the defending 2A state… Continue reading

AREA SPORTS BRIEFS: Seventh Klahhane gymnast qualifies for regionals

A seventh Klahhane Xcel gymnast qualified for the regional Xcel… Continue reading

Klahhane Xcel gymnasts, from left, Elyse Brown, Mariah Traband and Scarlett Sullivan all qualified for regionals at the Washington State Xcel Championship held in Pasco this weekend. Brown won a first-place medal for the floor exercise. (Klahhane Gymnastics)
Ethan Staples, Sequim baseball.
ATHLETE OF THE WEEK, Ethan Staples, Sequim baseball

Sequim’s Ethan Staples has been a big part of the baseball team’s… Continue reading

Spot shrimp season begins on May 16 and May 17 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet and Hood Canal, depending on the specific marine area. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
OUTDOORS: Spot shrimp season begins May 16-17

More razor clam digs this week