He has eaten, breathed and slept basketball since he was a kid in Scarsdale, New York. Although not for lack of effort, Hufnagel tried hard to be a player, but always fell just a few skills short of attaining that dream.
He never let that disappointment stop him from pursuing a career in the sport. With a tenacious drive and the gift as a teacher of the game of basketball, the little Jewish boy from New York has carved himself a place in the world of Division I NCAA basketball.
Success Follows Hufnagel
University of Oklahoma was Hufnagel’s first stop, where he worked on his post bachelor’s studies. As a graduate assistant coach, Hufnagel helped the Sooners win 23 games and earn a tournament appearance. On that team was the first pro prospect Hufnagel would help to mold, Blake Griffin.
Yanni would shift east after his student experience at OU where he began his official coaching career at Harvard University. Under the tutelage of Tommy Amaker Hufnagel would be an integral part of the Crimson rise to success. He was instrumental in the most prolific season in Harvard basketball history during the 2012-13 season. During this period, Hufnagel would use his basketball teaching talents to help shape the budding career of another star player, Jeremy Lin.
Hufnagel would shift to SEC basketball next, taking a job at Vanderbilt University, where the Commodores landed a top ranked recruiting class in no small part due to the diligence of Hufnagel. Opportunities continued to appear for the successful young assistant coach, as he accepted a position with the University of California Golden Bears program.
While there were some changes in scenery for Hufnagel, the results seemed to always be the same. The teams were highly successful, some experiencing remarkable seasons, the most memorable in school history. There was also a trend where recruits would be convinced to commit due to Hufnagel’s excellent recruiting skills and then develop into professional quality talent.
New Opportunity on the Horizon?
Most recently, Hufnagel has worked as an assistant coach/recruiter for the University of Nevada. The results were very much the same. The Wolf Pack won the Mountain West Conference last year, posting a school record tying 28-win season, earning a bid to the NCAA tournament last season.
Three highly regarded recruits already signed with UNR before Hufnagel’s announcement, he was stepping down as assistant coach. Nevada head coach Eric Musselman raved about Hufnagel, calling him one of the most intense recruiters and high-energy assistants he has ever worked.
With such a documented history of success throughout his career, no one will be surprised if the 34-year old Hufnagel is not on some athletic director’s radar as a head-coaching candidate.
Hufnagel’s leaving the University of Nevada program has people in the college basketball circles posturing that he may be looking at his first head coaching opportunity. No matter where the next stop is on his basketball journey, success seems to always show up wherever he gets an opportunity to coach.