To be a top-notch college basketball assistant coach is to be both an excellent salesman and a brilliant recruiter. Yanni Hufnagel, the assistant coach of the Harvard basketball program between 2009 and 2013 happened to be both. Regarded as one of the top recruiters in college basketball, Yanni Hufnagel was perhaps best known for developing professional NBA basketball player, Jimmy Lin, and for his successful four seasons streak while coaching and recruiting for the Harvard Crimson college basketball team.
Raised in Scarsdale, New York, Hufnagel’s youth had always been grounded in sports. As a youth, Hufnagel had collected basketball figurines and studied various basketball strategies with various basketball coaching books. He played basketball at Scarsdale High School and lacrosse for one year at Penn State. Although he was unable to distinguish himself in either sports, he became well known around his town for calling games on the town’s public access television and his in-depth analysis of various basketball games and strategies. His broadcast partner, Ed Cohen, was one of the first to realize that Hufnagel’s talent would eventually take him into either sports broadcasting or basketball coaching.
In Hufnagel’s first year at Cornell, Hufnagel quickly immersed himself into the basketball coaching scene as a basketball manager for Cornell’s men’s basketball team. Successive internships with the New Jersey Nets in both summer and fall sessions continued to develop Hufnagel’s experience on his resume. His first big break occurred when Jeff Chapel, the coach of the basketball team at the University of Oklahoma, hired him as the graduate assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. Hufnagel soon finish up his undergraduate education with a Bachelor of Science degree in labor relations at Cornell University and soon transferred to the University of Oklahoma to work under Jeff Chapel and to begin study on his master’s degree in adult and higher education with an emphasis in intercollegiate athletics administration. During Hufnagel’s time at University of Oklahoma, he was best known for his work in developing professional NBA basketball player, Blake Griffin, who later on played for both the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons.
In June 2009, Yanni Hufnagel joined Harvard’s college basketball team as assistant coach under head coach Tommy Amaker and spent the next four seasons successfully coaching and recruiting for the Harvard Crimson. Following a successful coaching experience at Harvard University, Hufnagel moved on to coach for the Vanderbilt University basketball team, the Commodores, in 2013, where he developed professional NBA basketball player Wade Baldwin IV. In 2014, Hufnagel joined the coaching staff of the University of California Berkeley basketball team, the California Golden Bears, where he recruited Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, who both became professional basketball players in the NBA League. Currently, Hufnagel is coaching for the basketball team of the University of Nevada under head coach Eric Musselman.
Although more than a decade had passed since Yanni Hufnagel began his career as intercollegiate coach and recruiter, in the intercollegiate basketball world, Hufnagel is still often known by the quote used by University of Memphis coach, Josh Pastner, to describe Hufnagel’s impressive recruiting ability – “the most relentless recruiter in college basketball.”