Yanni Hufnagel was born a Jewish boy in Scarsdale, New York on August 26, 1982. He grew up playing with his action figures, but war wasn’t his game. It was basketball. Yanni was acting out plays that he learned from the countless books he had read. As a child, he read as many books about coaching basketball as he possibly could.
Yanni Hufnagel carried his passion for coaching basketball everywhere he went in life. While attending Scarsdale High he became an anchor for his local TV station. There, Hufnagel provided commentary for his High School’s basketball games.
While attending Cornell University, Yanni Hufnagel became Basketball Manager for the “Big Reds.” His drive would also earn him a summer internship with the New Jersey Nets. After receiving a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations in 2006, a Nets colleague of Yanni’s referred him to University of Oklahoma’s head coach, Jeff Capel. Capel made Yanni a Graduate Assistant Coach.
Capel went on to recommend Yanni Hufnagel to Harvard’s head coach in 2009. Despite having an unpaid intern’s salary, Yanni started to recruit high school kids immediately after being hired.
Yanni Hufnagel eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Adult Higher Education, with an emphasis on Intercollegiate Athletic Administration, from Oklahoma. He has also been an Assistant Coach for Vanderbilt, the University of California at Berkeley, and most recently for the University of Nevada at Reno.
At the University of Nevada in Reno, Yanni helped head coach Eric Musselman lead the men’s “Wolf Pack” basketball team into the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Yanni and the University of Nevada mutually split ways after the 2017 season. With his experience and passion for coaching, Yanni will surely continue to leave an impact anywhere he coaches.
While being interviewed at Harvard University, Yanni Hufnagel checked his phone to see a text from NBA star Jeremy Lin. The Houston Rockets guard was asking if the 30-year-old Jewish man wanted tickets to that nights NBA game. Of course, the answer was yes.
Here’s where we will play a thought experiment. Who do you think Yanni Hufnagel is? You might think he is a sports agent, or a high-level businessman or banker. But that would just be your stereotypical view of this situation. Instead, Yanni Hufnagel is an assistant coach for the University at Reno’s basketball team.
Yanni Hufnagel knows Jeremy Lin from his Harvard coaching days. Yanni Hufnagel got his big break in 2009 to become the assistant coach for the Crimson Tide. Here he would garner his fame as one of the country’s top recruiters. He put together a team that went 79-24 and four years while winning a first-ever Ivy League championship.
The young Jewish assistant coach has also coached at Oklahoma, Vanderbilt and the University of California, Berkeley. He has gained a reputation as a ruthless recruiter. He was able to put a top-five recruiting class together for UC Berkeley. And he was awarded assistant coach most likely to become famous because of recruiting in a CBS Sports poll of college coaches.
Yanni Hufnagel has done all of this despite not being able to play basketball well himself. He was cut from his high school varsity basketball team in Scarsdale, New York. He went on to attend his own Ivy League school at Cornell, but instead of becoming a lawyer, doctor or businessman, he became a college coach.
He has paid his dues. He has washed player jerseys as an unpaid intern for the New Jersey Nets, and he put together the Ivy League championship team at Harvard as an unpaid assistant coach. It’s high time he gets his own program.