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An interview with Howie Levy.

I had a chance to speak with new Mercer County Community College head coach Howie Levy earlier today. A transcript of our conversation follows. - JS


Thanks. Should be fun.

Was a head coaching position something that was on your radar since you stopped coaching at Princeton, or did this job kind of find you?

A little bit of both. Last spring I actually tried to get the Princeton High School job, which I didn't get. I think that it is ok that I didn't get it. I knew I wanted my next coaching job to be some sort of head coaching job and I was thinking over the last year - "what would be a good job for me?" I wanted to find somewhere where I was not moving my family and I said Mercer would be a good job. I liked the idea of helping kids that need some help and might not necessarily be in the educational system.

The AD at Mercer is a guy named John Simone, who was a long-time high school coach in the area. I think he called me during last season. I can't remember how it started but I want to say I was thinking about them and he happened to call me. He had a pretty good inkling that Kelly Williams, who was the head coach last year, was going to have a real good shot at the College of New Jersey job and asked if I would be interested. I said yes and from there we stayed in contact for a while. When Kelly got the job he called me and we talked and it worked out.

So, proximity to home was a factor? You probably would not have sought out a job like this if it meant uprooting your family?

Exactly. Over the years I've had enough friends going different places that I could have moved. Moving also would mean doing something with the business [HYP], which is paying the bills. On one hand Mercer fits into my coaching slot and I am actually really excited about the school and about the kind of kids we'll be working with and the kinds of opportunities I'll be able to provide for these guys.

Since 2007 you're been coaching youth basketball in the Princeton area. What did you take away from this experience?

I think the biggest thing is that I love to coach. I love to be on the floor. That I love to be working with guys. That's the stuff you miss. The relationships with the players. To be able to work with them day in and day out. A lot of the outside stuff, you sort of lose sight of what you're really like and what you really love about it. Coaching 13-year olds shows you some things you can and can't do with the "Princeton Offense." I learned a lot about simplicity too.

I know you have just been hired, but are there things you always wanted to try and implement as a head coach that you did not have the opportunity to work on as a volunteer assistant?

You get to decide. The stuff that we'll do will be in the body of Princeton basketball stuff. Are you going to tweak things, different things? Yeah. How are you going to play? What is the defense going to be? I've got some ideas on defense which I wouldn't say are things that I wasn't allowed to do. I'd say they are things that have evolved over time. Maybe one guy takes this stuff and put this spin on it. I might put a slightly different spin on it. Different drills. Different ways to get your point across. I think it is good to be the guy making the decisions rather than making the suggestions.

What can you tell people about the Mercer County Community College program? What do you know about it?

I know that back when I was a player the Princeton JV and Mercer had an unbelievable rivalry, where there were some really great games. Kelly was there for nine years and they've been a good, solid program. I think they were 17-13 last year, and I'll bet you they averaged that amount of wins over the last nine years. I think they've had a good track record of kids graduating and going on to play other places.

There are no dorms, so it is mostly local kids or kids who can pay for an apartment. The AD told me the important things are player development - getting these guys better, and graduating, ideally to a four year school as a basketball player. If you get them to a four year school, you've succeeded.

It is a bit of a different experience as a coach, knowing you're only going to have players for a maximum of two years, I suppose.

Hopefully you're getting kids that are gym rats. You can do a fair amount in two years. I'm not so worried about that, in terms of them picking up things. I am just teaching them how to play basketball - dribble, pass, shoot. How to play together. It will be interesting to see what the guys' instincts are like and their work ethic is like compared to what we've seen over the years at Princeton.

How much thought have you given to the rest of your staff?

Well, I have one guy - Brian Caver - A Trenton guy who played for Seton Hall. He's been helping out a little bit over the years there. He wants to get into coaching and he is going to work with me. I can have as many volunteer coaches as I want, so I am going to try and get some other people to come help out. I think it is important, first of all, for them to be hearing more than one voice. A guy like Brian is great because he knows these kids. If they don't respond to be maybe they'll respond to him. I just think that has always been an important thing - different voices saying the same stuff but in their own way and teaching their own way. You got any ideas?

You certainly have no shortage of resources in the coaching fraternity to draw from!

Hopefully we can get this place to a point where Craig [Robinson], John [Thompson III], Joe [Scott] and Bill [Carmody], you can say to them, "here's a guy you might be interested in, take a look at this guy."

Finally, what does this mean for HYP? Are you ready to hand in your NJT Monthly Pass?

Not yet. This job is part time. We're still going strong [at HYP]. I do think, in terms of time, this job is a lot less traveling. Most of the games are for the most part within an hour or an hour-and-a-half from here. I think there are about three or four overnight trips the whole season, which are all Saturday nights. In that sense it will be less demanding, in terms of the balance between coaching and work. I do have to drive the team van sometimes, but everybody has to do stuff like that.

The way that recruiting works, it all comes together real late, after everything is said and done with Division I, II and III. That is when you're going to get your guys so a lot of it is monitoring the local high school scene, having relationships with coaches in the area. That kind of stuff, rather than going out on the road for a month.

There's no film exchange to speak of. You're going to watch your own tapes and hopefully have some friends who will go out and watch some games for you. Mostly we're going to concentrate on what we do and try and get good at that. I have a feeling the way we're going to play is going to be different than the way most of the teams we're going to play against are going to play, so you want to be in a situation where they have to worry about you.

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