It’s hard to miss 6-foot-8 Princeton High School senior Lior Levy on the basketball court. It’s even harder to miss his 6-10 father, Howard.
It’s no wonder the two towering Levy men have both spent most of their lives immersed in basketball.
Howard played under legendary coach Pete Carril at Princeton University until he graduated in 1985. He then went on to play for team USA in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, which is similar to the Olympics. He tried out for the New Jersey Nets and made it to the final round before being cut. Howard went on to play in the Continental Basketball Association under Phil Jackson and then played a season in Australia.
When he came back to the United States, Howard took an assistant coaching job at what was then Trenton State College. Soon after, he attended law school at George Washington University, where he also served as an assistant coach. Howard started working at a law firm and took a few years off from basketball until Carril retired in 1996. At Carril and coach Bill Carmody’s suggestion, Levy took the assistant coach position at his alma mater, where he stayed for 11 years before becoming the head coach at Mercer County Community College in 2008.
“It’s a special thing to coach at your alma mater, especially at a place like Princeton where you work under Coach Carril’s influence,” Howard said. “The other assistants were two of my teammates and good friends, Joe Scott and John Thompson. It was a really, really great experience. There’s so much continuity in the way you play and teach that I think there’s a bond between players and coaches of all ages.”
Lior was just one year old when his family moved from New York to Princeton. He spent his entire childhood surrounded by basketball.
“When he was two and three, he was driving around on a golf cart with Mitch Henderson,” Howard said. “He was exposed to it at a very young age. As he got a little bit older, he started playing with the ball. He really developed this love affair with basketball, particularly Princeton basketball.”
Lior said he has distinct memories of palling around with the Princeton players and coaches.
“I was always at practices and games,” he said. “My friends and I used to be ball boys. Just being around the players and doing shootarounds was a lot of fun. It definitely had an influence on me.”
PHS boys’ basketball head coach Mark Shelley said that influence is obvious.
“He really understands the game,” Shelley said. “He grew up around the sport. I love working with the kid.”
Shelley said Lior is one of the central cogs of this year’s 11-9 Little Tigers team. Lior is an asset on both sides of the court, snagging key defensive rebounds while also scoring points and making passes.
He said Lior’s greatest asset, though, is his overall knowledge of the game.
“He has a lot of basketball sense and a very high basketball IQ,” he said. “At the same time, he’s not kind of a prima donna about it. You make suggestions, he listens. He really understands the game. He understands the X’s and O’s picture of it, why this stuff works.”
To get to this point, though, Lior had a rough road. He had mono as a freshman, knocking him out for the season, and he tore his meniscus the next year. That was still a factor during his junior year. After physical therapy, he’s finally back on track.
“It feels good to finally be healthy,” he said. “I worked hard. It was tough, but I’m happy.”
Lior said he attributes much of his success to his father.
“He’s pretty much taught me everything he knows about basketball,” he said. “We have a lot of similar moves. I think a lot of people like my hook shot, and he taught me that.”
Howard, though, sees Lior as a more evolved player than he himself was, mostly due to a shared shortcoming.
“Unfortunately, one of the similarities he’s inherited is not the strongest and fastest legs,” he said. “That forces you to polish your skills. I think his skills have really developed far beyond the way mine ever have. His skill set is really, really fun to watch.”
Howard said it’s satisfying to see Lior finally able to play at his fullest potential—as a father and a coach.
“More than anything you’ve ever done, you want to see your kid successful,” he said. “He’s had a rough high school career, so it’s really nice to see him do so well, particularly this year.”