Are you any good at basketball? Yanni Hufnagel might just knock on your door. The Jewish assistant coach at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a world-class recruiter. He’s earned that reputation through years of hard work; sometimes unpaid hard work.
Yanni Hufnagel grew up in the comfortable Jewish suburb of Scarsdale, New York. Most young men from Scarsdale focus on academics and go on to become lawyers, doctors or businessmen. The neighborhood probably expected Yanni Hufnagel to do the same, or become a sports agent at least. Instead, Yanni Hufnagel followed his passion to become one of the country’s best recruiters.
He went to an Ivy League college at Cornell, but took an unpaid internship with the New Jersey Nets washing jerseys. He then continued working in basketball in an unpaid graduate assistant position at Oklahoma. Jeff Capel, head coach of the Sooners, was immediately impressed with his recruiting chops. He wasn’t afraid to hear the word no, he made a great pitch and he was very likable.
This inspired Capel to recommend Yanni Hufnagel for an assistant coaching job at Harvard. There he would make a name for himself by assembling the roster that won the school’s first Ivy League championship. He was there for four years and the team went an astonishing 79-24. In 2011, the school won a record 26 games and was nationally ranked for the first time.
He then helped Villanova recruit two NBA draft picks before taking his talent to UC Berkely where he assembled a killer backcourt. He’s now the assistant coach at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is continuing to recruit at a high level.
CBS Sports conducted a poll that awarded Yanni Hufnagel “assistant coach most likely to become a star through recruiting.” It’ll be fun to see where the young coach goes next.