There aren’t too many stories of little Jewish boys navigating their way from the Big Apple to any level of basketball fame and fortune. Well, Yanni Hufnagel is the nice little Jewish lad who has managed to build himself into one of the most respected assistant basketball coaches on the NCAA major college level.
Hufnagel started out with high aspirations to be a basketball player, but in spite of all his hard work and dedicated diligence, he was cut from his Scarsdale, New York high school squad. If he didn’t have the talent to be a player, Hufnagel immediately began working on ways he could become involved in the game he loved so much.
Yanni didn’t waste any time, doing the color commentary for his Scarsdale High School games. He traveled up to College Station, PA and tried his hand at lacrosse for Penn State University. Not a big success, he became resigned to the fact his calling was not as an athlete. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and opted for an internship with the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association. His voyage into the world of basketball was on its way.
Hufnagel’s journey across the national scene of college basketball found him joining the staff of Tommy Amaker at Harvard University in June 2009. Harvard would set a record for most wins in his first season, and then eclipse that record three more times during his tenure as assistant coach and recruiter. By his third full season, he helped the Crimson win 26 games, earn a top-25 ranking in the NCAA basketball poll, plus accept Harvard’s first invitation to the NCAA Tournament since 1946.
Hufnagel would shift gears in May 2013 taking a similar position at Vanderbilt University. ESPN ranked the 2014 Commodores recruiting class at number 29 in the nation. Beyond the X’s and O’s on a chalkboard, Hufnagel has always produced results as a recruiter. One year later Hufnagel thought he had landed his dream job at the University of California. Because of one of the most noteworthy miscarriages of justice in recent college sports history, Hufnagel decided to keep his dignity and walk away from the Golden Bears program with his integrity.
Little did he know that his real dream job was just a few hundred yards away in the deserts of Nevada. A year ago April Hufnagel joined the staff of former NBA head coach Eric Musselman at the University of Nevada. The success that follows him across his collegiate coaching journey is happening on the Reno, Nevada campus. The Wolf Pack are currently #1 in the Mountain West Conference and a guarantee for an invitation to March Madness.
It seems about every university that Hufnagel is a part of, finds their way to the big dance. If Yanni Hufnagel’s tendency to succeed in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds continues, the future looks bright for this nice little Jewish boy from Scarsdale, New York.