There seems to be a lot of pressure put on young men and affluent suburbs. Being the children of successful people, the pressure is for the young men to become successful on their own merits. Parents, coaches and high school counselors all urge these young men to become bankers, lawyers or doctors. This is especially the case in the New York City suburb of Scarsdale, New York, where Yanni Hufnagel grew up.
The affluent Jewish suburb continues to turn out some of the most successful young Jewish men in the country. So you can imagine the kind of pressure that Yanni Hufnagel was under after he graduated from Cornell University. But instead of becoming a lawyer, doctor or banker, Yanni Hufnagel took an unpaid position to help the Oklahoma Sooners basketball team as a graduate assistant.
He was immediately recognized for his talent in recruiting by head coach Jim Capel. Capel then recommended him to Harvard University. This was Yanni Hufnagel’s big break. Unfortunately, assistant coaches at Harvard do not get paid. I can only imagine the pressure grew to go get a “real job,” yet Yanni Hufnagel persisted.
I’m really glad he stuck to its because Harvard is where he would gain his fame. His ability to recruit was so good that he put together Harvard’s first Ivy League championship team. Now, Harvard does not issue athletic scholarships which makes recruiting for the Ivy League school nearly impossible. But the Crimson Tide went 79-24 in the four years that Yanni Hufnagel spent in Cambridge. In 2011, the school won a record 26 games and became nationally ranked for the very first time.
Yanni Hufnagel is now in his early 30s. He has put in his dues and has followed a similar career trajectory as Brad Stevens. It’s about time he tastes some of that success but he’s been chasing with his own college program.