Yanni Hufnagel is quietly making himself a force as an assistant coach on the sidelines of the Harvard basketball team. Today on Tablet, Ben Z. Cohen looks at how he got there and where he is going.
In his first year at Cornell, Hufnagel spent one season as a basketball manager, and he scored a summer and fall internship with the New Jersey Nets, where his duties included laundry pickup. But his big break came right after graduation when his Nets colleague Ryan Krueger, now an assistant coach at Lehigh, connected him with his old boss, Oklahoma basketball Coach Jeff Capel, who was looking for a graduate assistant. Capel flew Hufnagel out for an interview and offered him the position while driving him back to the airport. “He was just a ball of energy,” Capel said. Hufnagel’s time in Norman, Okla., overlapped with the two years of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin, the future No. 1 NBA draft pick, and the aspiring coach made himself invaluable to Griffin by opening the gym in the morning and rebounding late at night. “He’s probably the most genuine, hardworking guy I’ve ever been around in basketball,” said Taylor Griffin, Blake’s brother and Oklahoma teammate. “Anything we needed, he was there to provide that.”
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