Yanni Hufnagel grew up in a Jewish family in Scarsdale, New York. His best sport growing up was lacrosse. He even played a season of lacrosse in college. But Yanni Hufnagel’s favorite sport was basketball. Unfortunately for the young Jewish athlete, he was not equipped to play the game that he loves. He was cut from his high school varsity basketball team.
This all might sound like a bit of a tragic story. But it was his inability to play the game at a high level that led Yanni Hufnagel to the world of coaching. Instead of playing varsity basketball at his high school, he became the television announcer for the team. He played around with the role a little bit, pretending to be famous basketball announcers, but it was clear that his understanding of the game was deeper than anybody else his age.
It all started back when he was a young boy playing with basketball figurines. He would develop strategies for his basketball toys that he still employs today. Now we are all fortunate enough to see his rise through the ranks of the college basketball coaching scene.
His big break came back in 2009 when he took an assistant coaching position at Harvard University. With his recruiting, Harvard was able to claim an Ivy League championship for the first time in the school’s history. And as the oldest college in the country, Harvard has quite an extensive history. It was his time at Harvard University that got him labeled the assistant coach most likely to make it due to his recruiting skills, according to a CBS poll of college basketball coaches.
Yanni Hufnagel knows his basketball strategy so well that he can tailor his recruiting efforts around what the team needs. He is also not afraid to go after top-tier talent even when the school he is selling makes recruiting difficult. Harvard, for example, was not allowed to give athletic scholarships. Yanni Hufnagel recruited a powerhouse team despite that limitation. And he managed to recruit the best players that were capable of meeting Harvard’s incredibly high academic standards.