When one first talked to Yanni Hufnagel, they would instantly change their mood or simply suddenly became enthusiastic about what they were doing. Being a college basketball coach definitely is not for everyone and Hufnagel, originally from Scarsdale, did it with a natural flair.
Jon Rothstein, a college basketball analyst, claimed that he had never seen anyone as dynamic and talkative as Hufnagel. His energy, drive, and motivation were, without doubt, everything a young assistant in college basketball needed.
Before getting into college basketball coaching, Hufnagel worked as a student manager at Cornell University, but then at 23 he drove straight to Oklahoma and got a job as graduate assistant for Jeff Capel while working with Blake Griffin, who went on to become an NBA superstar. Hufnagel claimed that getting experience with Jeff and Blake had shaped his career and the way he formed and understood his art of coaching from then on. He considered himself lucky for having met them and having been around them quite a while.
Before this, he had first worked at Harvard trying to discover talent and he distinguished himself through how he was bonding with students and how he just saw their potential straight through them. Everyone was amazed at his ability to scan talent around him and propel towards success the ones who would really make it to the top. At the Iona Preparatory School, he discovered Matt Ryan, who eventually left to play for Notre Dame. Hufnagel told Ryan from the start what type of school he will play for, thing which, of course, took Ryan by surprise at that time and then came true.
Hufnagel also spent a season at Vanderbilt looking for future amazing basketball players. He then moved on to California, which is significantly richer in potentially hidden basketball talent. Soon after, he received a call from Cuonzo Martin, the coach of New Golden Bears, who gave him a job offer. He was very happy about this, yet surprised. Just like the students with hidden talent, whom he discovered.
Hufnagel’s priority right now is to contribute to Cuonzo Martin’s coaching and he is hoping for even better career prospects, provided that someone sees and acknowledges his work. Everybody needs someone to believe in themselves and he knows this best.