Todd Holthaus’s father was a milkman and ice cream salesman from West Union, Iowa, a military veteran who died of an illness connected to the use of the Vietnam-era herbicide Agent Orange.
Todd was understandably heartbroken. Roger Holthaus was only 50 when he died and, worse, it came three months after Todd’s grandfather, Theodore Balk, died.
They were the role models of Todd’s young life.
This was 1997 and Todd Holthaus, a recent graduate and basketball letterman at Grand Canyon University, was scheduled to interview for a teaching position in the Flowing Wells School District.
“It all happened in such a short time that I had to cancel two interviews in Tucson in order to go back to funerals in Iowa,” Holthaus remembers. “I kept asking myself if it was a sign I shouldn’t go to Tucson?”
His head might’ve said no, but his heart said go.
After helping to bury his father and grandfather in Iowa, Holthaus moved to Tucson to join his fiancée, Jennifer. Todd got a job teaching at Homer Davis Elementary School and got married.
It soon became storybook stuff.
Todd and Jennifer have four children. He got the job of his dreams — coaching basketball — and in 20 years at Flowing Wells, the UA, and Pima College, and last March at the NJCAA national championship tournament won his 500th game: 160 at Flowing Wells and 340 at Pima.
If that isn’t storybook stuff, what is?
“Coaching at Pima College has been the most rewarding coaching experience of my career,’’ said Holthaus, entering his 17th season at PCC. “ Being able to coach and mentor the young ladies that have come through our program is a humbling experience for everyone involved. The icing on the cake is being able to build Pima into a nationally recognized women’s basketball program.’’
Holthaus coached Pima to a No. 2 national finish in 2011, a No. 3 finish in 2009 and 2016, and a No. 5 finish in 2010 and 2019. Under his watch, the Aztecs have played in the NJCAA region finals 14 times in 16 seasons.
And he hasn’t done it with big names. Of the seven first-team All-Americans at PCC, three are from Tucson: Flowing Wells’s Abyee Maracigan, Palo Verde’s Syndi Stallworth, and CDO’s Jesse Ingraham.
In between Holthaus’s stretches at Flowing Wells and PCC, he spent two years as an assistant coach at Arizona under Joan Bonvicini.
“I probably would’ve never guessed I’d be at Pima for 17 years,’’ said Holthaus. “But it became home.’’