After a long tenure with the Elk River basketball program, Klasen is moving on
by Jake Andersen
A longtime Elk River coach is calling it a career.
After 36 years of coaching at Elk River High School, Randy Klasen has announced his retirement from the basketball program, leaving his post as the varsity boys head coach following his 21st season (1998-2019). Klasen also served 10 seasons as the varsity girls head coach (1984-1994), while serving five seasons as a sophomore or junior varsity coach.
Although it was a difficult decision to step down after a long, successful tenure at Elk River, Klasen felt confident it was the right time.
“It was a tough decision to decide to stop coaching. I’ve loved being a coach at Elk River High School. I’ve had tremendous people to work with and very supportive administrators. My assistant coaches are some of my closest friends. So I will miss the great times we have shared together,” Klasen said. “As far as why the time to retire is now, my faith led my into the coaching profession and provided the opportunity for me to coach at Elk River and I just know that it is time to move onto something else in my life. I don’t know exactly what that will be, but I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.”
Klasen’s impact on the Elk River basketball program has been monumental over the years, leading the girls program to a record of 171-61 before taking over the boys program to lead them to a 345-241 mark. Combined, he compiled over 500 wins, with an all-time head coaching record of 516-302.
With the girls program, Klasen led the Elks to a second-place finish at the state tournament during the 1989-90 season, while also earning two conference championships. Over 10 straight winning seasons, he received two individual honors, winning Section Coach of the Year in 1990 and Metro Coach of the Year in 1991. In addition, he coached the Metro All-State Team in 1991.
As the head of the boys program, Klasen led the Elks to seven section championship games in his first eight seasons, advancing to four state tournaments, including a third-place finish in 2005-06. He had a streak of 10 straight winning seasons until suffering his first losing season as an Elk River head coach in 2008-09. In total, he had 16 winning seasons with the boys program, advancing to two more section championship games in 2012-13 and 2015-16. Klasen also earned Section Coach of the Year in 2001 and coached the boys All-Star game in 2009.
In the eyes of Elk River athletic director Mike Cunningham, that’s the resume of a Hall of Fame coach — one that he wishes he didn’t have to replace, but is happy for.
“My life sucks right now. It’s a huge loss. It really is. ... And When I say my life sucks, it’s because I gotta replace a legend,” Cunningham said. “This is a Hall of Fame head coach here — 500-plus career wins in the Northwest Suburban Conference with sometimes a lot of talent, sometimes (not as much). I can’t tell you how many games we have won because of his coaching.
“Whoever steps in will have big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively. ... Everyone is going to be nervous (for what’s next), but at the same time, I’m excited for him. He’s already out fishing, I know that.”
Cunningham added the search for a new coach is underway and the expectation is to have someone hired over the next couple of weeks.
Whoever takes over, Klasen believes they’ll be set up for success, adding there’s a lot of positive momentum being built up in the program right now.
“The Elk River basketball program has a bright future. We have started a booster club this past year and it will be exciting to see all the new ideas they have to help improve the players’ experience,” Klasen said. “The Elk River Boys Youth Basketball program is a very strong organization that has been very supportive of the high school program, and a positive relationship with them going forward will only strengthen the program.”
While Klasen is excited about what’s next for the program and himself, Klasen admitted he’ll miss working with the players more than anything. He said they were what made the job so fulfilling, adding he couldn’t be more proud of the way they positively represented the school and community.
“Coaching at Elk River for 36 years has been very special for me. ... As coaches, we are entrusted with not only teaching our athletes how to play a game, but we’re also challenged with providing an environment that helps our athletes develop their character. While coaches are impactful in athletes’ lives, most people don’t realize how much athletes also impact their coaches,” he said. “I’m thankful for how blessed I’ve been to work with so many great kids. They have impacted me greatly as I have grown and matured as both a person and a coach. ... I will miss the great kids I’ve been able to work with.”
Even so, he’s at peace with his decision, knowing he’ll still be cheering them on from afar.
“It’s been great to be an Elk, but now it’s time to be a fan,” he said.