Yanni Hufnagel: College Coach To Watch

We all seem to be celebrating diversity these days. That’s why it is so good to see people in the Jewish community getting involved with high-level sports. The stereotype is that Jewish people stay away from high-level sports, but don’t tell Yanni Hufnagel that.


Yanni Hufnagel grew up in Scarsdale, New York. He did not have the chops to make his own high school varsity basketball team, but that didn’t keep him away from the game. He took over as an announcer for the team where he got to show off his deep knowledge of basketball strategy.


That’s not to say that Yanni Hufnagel was not an athlete. He played one year of college lacrosse before transferring to Cornell University where he got his foot in the door in the high-level basketball world as an intern for the New Jersey Nets. But he was destined for so much more than watching NBA player’s laundry.


He picked up an assistant coaching job at Oklahoma before getting his big break. It might seem odd that his big break was an unpaid assistant coaching job at Harvard University, but that is the truth. In charge of recruiting for Harvard, Yanni Hufnagel was able to assemble an Ivy League championship team despite some obvious obstacles. First of all, Harvard does not award athletic scholarships. Secondly, athletes must also meet Harvard’s intensely high academic standards.


Harvard’s dominant 79-24 record during his four years in Cambridge earned him an accolade. A CBS Sports poll of college basketball personnel named him the assistant coach most likely to succeed because of recruiting skills. Since, he’s worked for the University of California at Berkeley where he was able to put together a stunning recruiting class. Now he is at the University of Nevada at Reno assembling a new powerhouse team.