Palo Verde Grad, Former Pima Assistant Chris Klassen Named SUNY Canton Head Coach

Chris Klassen continues to elevate in the coaching profession, building from his strong roots as the one who coached Bryce Cotton at Palo Verde High School.

Klassen, a Palo Verde grad and former assistant under Pima women’s coach Todd Holthaus, was named the head coach of the NCAA Division III SUNY Canton women’s basketball program today.

After his eight-year run as a Pima assistant, Klassen spent the last two seasons as the assistant women’s basketball coach at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

His first season at Pima was as an assistant with the men’s program. As an assistant to Holthaus, the Aztecs earned a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in 2016, won an NJCAA Region I, Division II title in 2016 and appeared in the Region I, Division II championship game in each season. 

Before coaching at Pima, Klassen was the boys basketball head coach at Palo Verde from 2009-2011 where he went 41-20. In 2010, his team went 24-7 with a state final four appearance with Cotton at guard. Cotton went on to play four years at Providence and briefly in the NBA before becoming a two-time MVP in the National Professional League in Australia.

“I am extremely grateful and excited for the opportunity to join the Roo family as the next head women’s basketball coach at SUNY Canton!” Klassen said in a statement released by the school. “My family and I are looking forward to our move to Canton and becoming a part of the amazing community. I look forward to being able to mentor, coach and inspire our players and lead the program to new heights!”

After Klassen graduated from Palo Verde, he played at William Penn University, an NAIA school in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He earned a scholarship while at William Penn. He was a three-year starter. He scored more than 1,000 points in his career and ranked in the individual top 10 in William Penn history in steals, 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.

Klassen graduated from William Penn with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education K-12 Physical Education. He spent 14 years combined as a physical education teacher in the Tucson Unified School District, one year as an exercise science teacher and one as the Youth Sports Director at the Ott Family YMCA. 

Bryce Cotton and his former coach at Palo Verde, Chris Klassen (Klassen photo)

Klassen and his wife Katie also created and managed two girls AAU travel organizations — the Tucson Rattlers founded in 2012 and the Galesburg Express founded in 2019.

The family, including daughter Calie and son Trey, have moved to Canton. Klassen officially begins his job duties on Tuesday. 

“Chris has a vast knowledge and experience of coaching winning basketball,” SUNY Canton athletic director Randy B. Sieminski said in the release.  “It showed throughout the interview process and has throughout his career. He is driven, committed, knowledgeable, personable and professional. He has experience at nearly every level of the game and quickly rose to the top of a very competitive applicant pool.

“Not only has Chris shown the ability to win as an assistant at Knox and Pima Community College, but also as a head coach at the high school and travel basketball levels. He has the ability to connect with his student-athletes on and off the court, and has a strong track record in recruiting. People will be surprised to see how quickly he moves our program forward.”

Former Tucson Rattlers coach Chris Klassen giving instruction to his team during a tournament game in Las Vegas (Rattlers photo)

At Knox, Klassen played a key role in the Prairie Fire’s recruiting efforts, conducted all opponent playbooks and scouts, assisted in guard and post development, and created and ran the team’s preseason strength and conditioning programs. Klassen was also an assistant strength and conditioning coach for all sports at Knox.

Klassen assisted with camps for local area youth, game-day management for other campus sports and created all media graphics for the women’s basketball team’s social media accounts among other duties.  

When he coached the Rattlers, he typed daily two-hour workout routines down to the minute.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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