Yanni Hufnagel: Jewish College Basketball Coach Extraordinaire

“He’s probably the most genuine, hardworking guy I’ve ever been around in basketball.” That’s how Taylor Griffin, brother of the NBA’s famous Blake Griffin, describes Yanni Hufnagel. Yanni Hufnagel is currently the 33-year-old assistant coach to the University of Nevada at Reno’s men’s basketball team. For such a young guy, Yanni Hufnagel has already had extensive history in the college basketball coaching industry and has been lauded by his coaching peers along the way. He is one of the best young basketball coaches in the country.


In 2011, a CBS Sports poll indicated that Yanni Hufnagel was voted most likely to make it big because of his recruiting prowess. The poll asked basketball coaches around the country who they thought would make a big after serving time as an assistant coach. They overwhelmingly chose Yanni Hufnagel.


Yanni Hufnagel gained this kind of respect while in assistant coach at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University is an easy sell to the academic student. But the nation’s oldest university is not so easy to sell to top-tier basketball talent. First of all, the school does not issue athletic scholarships. That means a top recruit would have to choose to pay for Harvard University over taking a full ride scholarship at a basketball powerhouse somewhere else in the country. The school also enforces quite a high academic standard for admission, even for basketball players.


Despite these obstacles, Yanni Hufnagel was able to lead the Crimson Tide to the first-ever Ivy League championship in the school’s history. During his four-year tenure for the Crimson Tide, Yanni Hufnagel and his basketball team crushed the competition to the tune of a 79-24 record. And the young Jewish coach did all of this as an unpaid assistant coach for one of the wealthiest schools in the nation.


Since his time at Harvard, Yanni Hufnagel has coached at Vanderbilt, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Nevada at Reno. My prediction is that the first chance he gets at a head coaching job at the Division I level will lead him to national recognition and stardom.