Benefield: Father, daughter rivals on the basketball court

Windsor's assistant coach Erik Oden, left, receives a hug from his daughter, Santa Rosa's Kylie Oden, right, before the start of the game held at Santa Rosa High School, Thursday, Jan.  8, 2015. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Windsor’s assistant coach Erik Oden, left, receives a hug from his daughter, Santa Rosa’s Kylie Oden, right, before the start of the game held at Santa Rosa High School, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

By KERRY BENEFIELD

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Windsor’s tight man-to-man defense didn’t stop Santa Rosa’s Kylie Oden on Thursday night. Nothing the Jaguars threw at the senior sharpshooter could stop her from dropping in 16 points, three rebounds and two steals.

When the two teams meet again, the Windsor coaching staff might want to consider grounding her. Perhaps taking away her car keys. Certainly they should reconsider the policy of driving Oden to the game. It’s like Caesar giving Brutus a lift to the Senate.

But Windsor’s assistant coach might be forgiven for the niceties. He is, after all, Kylie’s dad.

“I do root for her, but I do want to beat her,” Erik Oden said. “We have a little fun with it.”

On Thursday, the fun was all Kylie’s.

The 6-footer started the game with a warm embrace of her dad, then her team proceeded to pick his team apart.

The Panthers were up 35-20 at the half before rolling on for the 62-41 victory. The win puts the Panthers at 2-0 in league, drops the Jaguars to 1-1, and perhaps most importantly in the Oden household, gives Kylie a 6-0 record in three years of varsity ball against her dad.

As a senior, Oden is averaging nearly 13 points per game and is second on the team in assists, steals and blocks. Oh, and she shoots 30 percent from behind the arc.

And the guy who helped to develop her array of hardwood weapons is now paying the price.

“It’s really hard to stop her,” Erik Oden said.

Yup.

As a sophomore, Kylie Oden lit up the Jaguars for 14 points on 4-of-5 3-point shooting in one game. As a junior, she had nine points and five rebounds in one game, eight points and three boards in another.

“Luckily, it’s only two times a year,” the elder Oden said of the matchup.

If it is hard to coach against her, it was even more difficult to be her coach.

Erik tried it for a few years, but the tension built.

“It was too hard to coach her as her dad. It’s a much better relationship for us if I don’t coach her,” he said. “As she got a little bit older, toward eighth grade and a little bit more independent, it was, ‘I don’t want to listen to my dad.’ It starts to come into the household a little bit.”

Kylie Oden describes herself as strong-willed and ultracompetitive. Her family doesn’t disagree. That can make for tense dinner table ambiance if your coach or your rival is also the guy passing the potatoes.

“We don’t do well in the player-coach combination,” Kylie said. “It’s better when he’s just my fan.”

“I said, ‘I want you to cheer for me. Someone else can yell at me,’ ” she said.

But the latest arrangement of their father-daughter-coach-player-opponent relationship was cemented when Kylie decided to enroll at Santa Rosa. The day after her paperwork went through, Erik was offered the assistant’s gig at Windsor.

“I think it’s worked out pretty good,” she said. “It’s funny when we play each other. He knows everything I can do because he has watched me. We keep it as civil as we can in the house.”

If Kylie Oden doesn’t move her feet on defense and picks up a silly foul, she’s guaranteed to get a look from dad — because dad can see it coming.

“He’ll just give me that little smirk, like, ‘Oh, you got a foul and we’re shooting,’ ” she said.

But Kylie Oden knows she has her dad to thank for much of her on-court gifts. Her former coach, her current shootaround partner and her fellow Lakers fan, Erik Oden has a special knowledge of Kylie’s game — and a deep appreciation of what kind of player she has become.

“It’s been fun, obviously, to watch her,” he said. “Even opposite her, watching her play — when you see her from the court, she’s really competitive. It’s fun.”

And while she’s at it, she might want to thank mom, too. Amber Oden is the head coach of Santa Rosa’s volleyball squad. Competition — friendly rivalry — is a mainstay in their house.

“We have such a competitive edge in us,” Amber Oden said. “I try to keep that away from the dinner table as much as I can. We highly encourage sports, but at the end of the day it’s just a game.”

Kylie said she is getting a handle on her competitive streak, but that it remains pretty strong, especially when it comes to going toe to toe with her dad.

“It’s a weird thing because I want to beat them so bad,” Kylie said of the Jaguars. “But it’s a positive emotion. It’s a competitive spirit. I will not let my dad beat me.”

But there was that one time … Santa Rosa lost to Windsor in a summer league scrimmage, a game that Kylie is quick to point out “counts for nothing.” But still, the Panthers lost.

“I was just so mad and we lost to my dad,” she said. “It was a little awkward. I hate losing anyway.”

Erik’s role as a Jaguars coach means he doesn’t get to see his daughter play as much as he likes. But it also means they can pick each other’s brains about their various opponents and talk basketball — sometimes as rivals, but sometimes as something close to colleagues.

“Those two will talk for hours, shop talk,” Amber said. “But absolutely, it’s hard. He gets so excited and he is so proud of her as his daughter and he can’t be there.”

(See more photos from the game)

Don’t tell the Jags, but sometimes Erik will text Amber in the middle of a game to see how Kylie is doing. And for the big ones, he’ll skip the Windsor contest and support his daughter. Senior night next month against Montgomery? Dad will be there.

Amber Oden said the pregame handshake between Santa Rosa And Windsor is emotional for her. It’s moving to see her grown daughter embrace Erik as both a worthy competitor as well as her dad.

“They bring tears to my eyes,” she said, adding that she never takes sides. “I usually try to be Switzerland. I root forErik’s team but I root for Kylie to have a solid night and be proud of herself.”

And mom’s rule? Rehash the game, maybe jaw a little — for one night. By breakfast, she tells her people to move on.

“If you can’t handle that,” she said, “I’ll bench you both.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield.