Yanni Hufnagel always wanted to be a basketball player. He would practice almost every day on courts where he grew up in Scarsdale, New York. Probably was, he didn’t quite have the skills necessary to make his high school varsity squad, so he took a different route.
That journey led him to concentrate on building relationships with people and teaching basketball skills. Along the way, Hufnagel has made a handful of stops at different Division I universities. The odd thing is, at every stop the teams he has helped mold, have all earned invitations to the college basketball tournament, otherwise known as ‘March Madness’.
Oklahoma University Sooners
Hufnagel went out to the University of Oklahoma to continue his post bachelor’s studies, accepting a position on the Sooner basketball team as a graduate assistant coach. The Sooners won 23 games his first year and made it to the NCAA tournament, but fell in the second round to Louisville.
Then, during the 2008 to 2009 season, Hufnagel would help guide the Oklahoma basketball squad to 30 wins and another tournament initiation. This time Oklahoma would make it all the way to the elite eight, losing to the eventual national champion North Carolina Tar Heels in the regional final. A foundation was laid in Norman for what would become a trend in Hufnagel’s coaching career.
Harvard University Crimson
His first official college coaching job came when he accepted an assistant coaching opportunity at Harvard University under Tommy Amaker. Hufnagel arrived on campus in June 2009 and immediately began influencing the Crimson basketball program.
As Harvard moved up the national recruiting ranks, the fortunes of the varsity basketball team shifted as well. In 2011 Harvard won the Ivy League regular season title, but was knocked off the bubble and did not receive a tournament bid. In 2012, that would all change.
The 2012-13 season would be one of the most memorable in Harvard basketball history. They would begin a string of seasons where they would post the most wins in school history, and earn their first invitation to the NCAA tournament since 1946. For the next 4 years Hufnagel would help bring Harvard back to the big dance, twice reaching the round of 32.
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