Yanni Hufnagel Heads to Vanderbilt from Harvard

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Yanni Hufnagel, an assistant basketball coach that helped guide Harvard to their first ever March Madness win is leaving the Ivy League school for a position on Vanderbilt University’s coaching staff.


In an interview by Molly Parr with JewishBoston, Hufnagel explains that Vanderbilt’s reputation, recent success and pedigree, visibility, and being in the SEC was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He says it was a tough decision, because he cares deeply about the program at Harvard that he assisted in cultivating. He discusses the difficulty in letting his players know his decision.


Hufnagel is known as an excellent recruiter. He’s humbled when he hears that and says that he always tries to take a positive approach and that everything starts with high energy. In his coaching career he worked with NBA stars Jeremy Lin and Blake Griffin while they were in college. When asked what he looks for in a player, Hufnagel says that conversation will reveal a lot about how a working relationship will go. Hufnagel insists he has learned from working with very good coaches. He goes on to explain that having a good staff is key, as having more eyes in a recruit is better than only one pair.


In terms of analytics, Hufnagel says that advanced statistics are growing and are beginning to transform basketball. He states that statistician Ken Pomeroy is leading the charge for college basketball in particular. Although Hufnagel believes that basketball will not become like baseball, where analytics dominate discourse and approach to the sport, as baseball is all about the match-up between a batter and pitcher. Basketball is different, has a lot more variables, and is “much more fluid.”


Parr ends the interview by asking if Yanni Hufnagel can dunk. He responds by saying that while he can shoot with enough time and space, he has worked with much better shooters he would rather put his trust in. Learn more about Yanni on yannihufnagel.me