There is this sort of invisible barrier and professional and college sports that you may not have recognized. This invisible barrier certainly exists in the NBA. Just take a look at your favorite team and try to identify one Jewish player. Better yet, try to identify one Jewish coach. You won’t find many. The NBA has no Jewish players and there are only a handful of Jewish coaches in college basketball. Fortunately for all of us, Yanni Hufnagel is one of those college basketball coaches.
He grew up in Scarsdale, New York, where he was unable to make his own high school varsity basketball team. In order to stay close to the game he loves, he became the teams announcer. He was able to display his knowledge of strategies as the announcer; strategies that he developed playing with basketball figurines as a child.
Continued to pursue the game of basketball in college even though he was a lacrosse player. He quit lacrosse, took an unpaid internship with the New Jersey Nets, and graduated from Cornell University with a sports management degree. He moved on to Oklahoma as an unpaid graduate assistant. This position put him on the basketball court for practices and in the boardroom for the team’s recruiting strategy sessions.
He took this valuable experience with him to Harvard University where he became an assistant coach. His four years there were wildly successful as the team went 79-24. 2011 was the peak of his time at Harvard when the team won a record 26 games and became nationally ranked for the first time in school history. He was nationally recognized in a CBS sports pole that pointed to him as the assistant coach most likely to succeed.
Only in his early 30s, Yanni Hufnagel is poised to be the next big name in college basketball coaching.