Tosh tournament is five days of high school hoops mania
By Jeff Vorva
Photos by Mike Osgood
An army of volunteers.
Thousands of fans.
The Jack Tosh Holiday Classic is an overwhelming feast for high school basketball fans who want it all and then want some more.
One can argue what the best holiday tournament in the state is. Pontiac. Proviso West. But York has to be in the discussion.
What makes it such a draw?
“I think the size of it is appealing – 32 teams,” said York Athletic Director Rob Wagner, who had overseen a dozen Tosh tournaments. “You have teams from all over the suburbs, North, South, East and West. You have the city schools. We’ve had some pretty good teams come through here. There are a variety of basketball teams that don’t usually see each other. It’s always fun to have them play in a tournament atmosphere.”
Former York boys’ basketball coach Vince Doran, now a teacher at Hinsdale South, is still the tournament director and has a sense of pride when certain NBA or college games pop up on his television screen.
“It’s great to see Max Christie playing for the Lakers, or Max Strus (a Miami sharpshooting guard who recently signed with Cleveland) or Chris Collins (Northwestern, men’s coach),” Doran said. “It doesn’t seem that they were playing in our tournament not long ago.”
The 49th running of the Tosh – and the 10th running since it was expanded to 32 teams – takes place Dec. 26-30.
This year’s tournament will feature the debut of Metamora, the defending Class 3A champion.
“We’re really looking forward to bringing them in this year,” Wagner said. “It will be interesting because you never get to play a team like that up this way.”
It will also feature three Glenbards – East, West, and North and two Downers Grove teams – North and South. Four saints will also be represented – St. Francis, St. Ignatius, St. Laurence and St. Patrick. And don’t forget the hosts. York obviously has a seat at the table. The hosts won it in 1979, 1980, 2012, 2015 and 2018.
The other teams in the tournament are Andrew, Batavia, Bolingbrook, Conant, Fenwick, Glenbrook South, Hansberry, Highland Park, Hinsdale South, Lake Forest, Lemont, Lyons Township, Minooka, Naperville North, Nazareth, Palatine, Riverside- Brookfield, Rolling Meadows, Stagg, Wheaton North, and Yorkville.
So, who was Jack Tosh?
According to a biography supplied by York High School, he was a three-sport athlete from Decatur who played baseball at Northwestern and had an 8-RBI game against Michigan State in 1955.
He became a teacher and coach at Evanston and DeKalb before coming to York in 1974, where he was a coach and administrator until he retired in 1990.
Tosh was one of the guiding forces who started the York Holiday Tournament, and it was renamed in his honor in 1990. He died in 2013.
“He was the absolute best,” Doran said of Tosh. “He was at York my first year, and he was just the heart and soul of the school in so many different ways, in my opinion. He really laid the foundation for the athletic department overall. He hired great people. He supported them and let them grow. I think in Jack’s honor, we’ve done many great things to try to keep pushing it in the right direction. In my opinion, I feel like it’s the best tournament in the state.”
Wagner cherished his time with Tosh.
“He was a great guy and a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “I got to know him when I got here, and he taught me so much.”
The volunteers, including those behind the scenes, put in long hours before, during, and after the tournament to make it a success.
“You are only as good as your workers,” Wagner said. “We have people working the tables and concessions. National Honor Society kids volunteer, work the lockers, and act as team hosts. They clean up the bench area after games. Our maintenance staff is incredible in what they do every night to clean up and get things set up every day. We’re here from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and they are constantly working.”
Doran added that a group of students research and broadcast every game online.
What makes all of this worth it?
“The greatest moment is that after every tournament, the number of coaches, the number of athletes, the number of spectators, and the officials come up to us and say “‘hey, nice job, you run a first-class operation,’’’ Wagner said. “That’s the most rewarding thing.” ■