In May, Yanni Hufnagel joined the men’s basketball staff, replacing Assistant Coach Brad Frederick, who held the position for fourteen years. Hufnagel spend the last four seasons on Tommy Amaker’s staff at Harvard University. During his time there, the Crimson won the Ivy League title three times and made two NCAA Tournament appearances.
In addition to acting as recruiting coordinator, Hufnagel also developed perimeter players, including Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets. No stranger to the challenges of recruiting at an academically minded university, the Commodores’ newest staff member hopes to help restore the men’s basketball team to its previous glory.
The Vanderbilt Hustler: How do you like Vanderbilt and Nashville so far?
Yanni Hufnagel: You know what, I love it, and with each passing day, I love it more and more. We have a really special place with just terrific kids and a coaching staff that I really have grown to believe in. I’ve really enjoyed every single day that I have been here. It’s been a lot of fun, and I think the future continues to get brighter.
VH: How are you liking Memorial Gym? It’s a little different.
YH: (laughs) You know, I haven’t been in here for a game yet, but I’ve certainly heard how loud and how crazy it can get. Our job is to try to coach these guys up so that we can give the fans something to really get excited about. We’ll certainly continue to recruit players that our fan base will be excited about. I mean our job and our goal is to put — I think the attendance is 13,366 or whatever sold out is — we would like to have that for every home game as we move forward. I think it’s something that is a realistic thought if we continue to build this program and move in the right direction.
VH: So you said that Harvard was a 40-year decision and not a 4-year decision. That’s very similar to what Coach Franklin says. Have you talked to him about that at all?
YH: You know what, we have not, but that’s certainly something that I’m using or that I’m presenting in recruiting. And it is — I believe it with all of my heart. I mean, you look at a school like Vanderbilt and not based on what you can do over the next four years but what you can do for the rest of your life. We always talk about the next 40 not the next four. At the same time, our goal is to make the next four really, really good. We’d like to try to develop guys who will have a chance to go play in the NBA or professionally, but certainly we think that by choosing Vanderbilt, you’re taking the best insurance policy that you can on the rest of your life.
VH: Have you had to adjust your recruiting strategy at all since coming here?
YH: Yes and no. I think Vanderbilt has a lot of the same layers and pieces that Harvard had. I think that was something that was attractive to me when I chose to come on board here. We’ve got elite academics, we’ve got an incredibly beautiful campus in terms of the landscape of it, so those are things that Harvard had, but now you’ve got the SEC bright lights. You’ve got the ESPN TV package. You’ve got the facilities and the resources. There are certainly similarities, but you just have more to work with and more to present here for sure.
VH: Something we’re very proud of here is our 3-pointer streak. Is that something you’re aware of?
YH: No, what’s that?
VH: We’re one of three schools to have a 3-point shot in every game since the 3-point shot was created.
YH: Is that right? Well, let’s hope that continues. I’m not doing my job if it doesn’t, certainly beyond this next year. You know that is one thing that we are going to continue to try to do in recruiting is find guys who can make shots. It’s obviously a real weapon now in college basketball, so when you can make threes, you’ll be that much more dangerous offensively for sure. I think this team has a chance to make a lot of threes and to shoot a high percentage from three.
VH: This is obviously a very big week with you guys getting started here, and it’s Homecoming. Are you excited for your first Homecoming at Vanderbilt?
YH: I am. I’ve built a very good relationship with Coach Franklin. We’ve gotten close since I’ve been here. My first Homecoming football game is something that I’m really excited for. I think that’s what makes Vanderbilt a special place is the spirit and the atmosphere, and I think we’ll see that in its fullest this Homecoming weekend. I told Coach Franklin I might put my face paint on for the game on Saturday.