Titan Memories: Jason Levy

Titan Memories: Jason Levy

Jason Levy was a popular men's basketball assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton from 2000 to 2008, He had the unique perspective of watching and mentoring the program's rise from continuous losing seasons, NCAA probation brought about by previous regimes, to eventual NIT and NCAA tournament bids.

The Titans had experienced seven consecutive losing seasons when Donny Daniels took the helm of the program in 2000. Along with new players, and a new attitude, coach Daniels brought in new assistants, including Jason Levy.

Coach Daniels had met Levy in the NCAA tournament when Daniels was the number one assistant at Utah, and Levy was an assistant at Long Beach State. Their relationship grew, and Daniels was able to offer Levy a position on his new staff at Cal State Fullerton for the 2000-2001 season.

Things were not all sunshine and roses at Titan Tech when Levy arrived: "Our biggest obstacle was working with and around the (NCAA) probation and what that entailed program-wide. We had a reduction in the number of scholarships that we could offer, and we were prevented from recruiting JC student-athletes.

"Our other challenge was to change the program's culture to a winning culture, and incorporating the local community and fans within that vision. The program had stopped recruiting players who were from Southern California. I learned rather quickly that it was going to be a challenge to convince local players to come, but I was not going to stop trying. I tried very hard to reach out to all of the AAU and high school coaches in the area."

Recruiting success began with two non-local players: 6'10" Pape Sow from Senegal, and Philadelphia playground legend, Ralphy Holmes.

Said Levy: "Pape Sow was an outstanding recruit who went on to play three seasons in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors. Ralphy Holmes was as good a player as I ever coached in my twenty-seven years in D-1 college basketball."

In 2003, after three seasons with the Titans, and the growing feeling that the program was finally about to turn the corner, Donny Daniels took an offer he couldn't refuse to become the top assistant at UCLA under Ben Howland.

Enter Bob Burton. Burton had spent the previous season as the top assistant at WAC champion, Fresno State, his alma mater. Previously, he had spent 21 years as head coach at the California JC power, West Valley, where he had compiled a 488-158 career record, which would eventually earn him a spot In the California Community Colleges Coaches Hall of Fame.

Burton wisely retained Levy on his staff. Levy describes what happened next: "We then hit a grand slam recruiting legendary point guard and local player, Bobby Brown. 

"No one was recruiting him (Brown) at Westchester High School in Los Angeles. At the time he was playing in an AAU tournament when I first saw him. I could not believe that no one was recruiting him. I give coach Burton a lot of credit for believing in me that we should offer Bobby a scholarship. Bobby Brown changed our whole program."

Not only did Bobby Brown change the Titans fortunes with his play, he was an important unofficial recruiter who convinced his friends to also come to Cal State Fullerton, including Scott Cutley, Frank Robinson, Ray Reed, and Josh Akognon.

After a bumpy first season for Burton, things quickly turned around for the Titans in 2004-05. Led by Ralphy Holmes, Bobby Brown, Yaphett King, Jamaal Brown, and John Clemmons, Fullerton finished the season at 21-11, and were invited to their first NIT appearance since 1987.  The Titans advanced to the "Sweet 16" with a legendary buzzer-beater by Ralphy Holmes to win at Oregon State, and a dominant performance at the University of San Francisco. An injury-depleted team eventually fell at Georgetown.

The Titans reached the pinnacle in 2007-08, finishing 24-9, and winning the Big West Tournament behind Josh Akognon, Scott Cutley, Ray Reed, and Frank Robinson, earning their first NCAA Tournament appearance in thirty years. 

Levy was asked to describe the differences in coaching styles and working under head coaches Donny Daniels and Bob Burton: "Working for Donny Daniels was a great learning experience for me. He was an outstanding teacher. I have not seen a better coach working with low-post players. Coach Daniels was also a master game planner.  We made great progress and strides with him as our head coach. We still remain close, and I am very fortunate to have worked for him.

"Coach Burton was also great to work for and learn from. I always thought he was the best coach I have seen at identifying a problem and dealing with it. He had a way about him to get all the players to buy-in, and to think 'team first.'

"I hope that coaches Daniels and Burton are someday inducted into the Titan Athletics Hall of Fame. Both are deserving of that honor."

Asked about his fondest memories of his time at CSUF, Levy responded: "Going to the NIT and NCAA Tournaments, and seeing three guys achieve their dreams by making it to the NBA (Pape Sow, Bobby Brown, and Josh Akognon), while knowing that I had a helping hand.

"What I really remember most is that Kirk San Roman and the guys in the Titan Hoop Club stuck with us even when we were losing. They always stayed loyal, and even brought busloads to support us on the road. The coaches and the players always appreciated it.

Bob Burton (left), Kirk San Roman and Jason Levy at the 2019 Athletics Hall of Fame banquet.

"I spent eight years of my life there (Cal State Fullerton). My son was born when I was there, and I truly love the place. I am very proud of what we achieved during that time."

Jason Levy is currently a men's basketball assistant coach at the University of the Pacific. The Titans will play at UOP this season on November 18. 

Titans fans can now watch every home event exclusively on ESPN+. Cal State Fullerton has built a top-tier production studio to give the viewers an ESPN quality production for all games at Titan Stadium. Additionally, all schools in the Big West Conference are committed to producing ESPN quality streams which will allow fans to watch the Titans on ESPN+ for all road conference games. 

Fans can keep up with the latest in Titans athletics by following us on Facebook (@FullertonTitans), Twitter (@FullertonTitans), and Instagram (@FullertonTitans).


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Total Slides 1 : Active Index 1 : Last Slide Divs 5

Sat Jan 28
7:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at Cal Poly
Thu Feb 02
7:00 PM
Long Beach State
at Cal State Fullerton
Sat Feb 04
6:00 PM
UC Riverside
at Cal State Fullerton
Sat Feb 11
9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at Hawai'i
Wed Feb 15
7:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
at UC San Diego
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