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Friends reflect on death of York legend Jack Tosh

02/11/2013, 10:31pm CST
By Patrick Z. McGavin

Jack Tosh, the highly-regarded coach and athletic director who started the boys holiday basketball tournament at York that bears his name, passed away early Monday morning.

Jack Tosh, the highly-regarded coach and athletic director who started the boys holiday basketball tournament at York that bears his name, passed away early Monday morning.

He gained his greatest professional respect as the long-time York athletic director who helped build the school’s nationally-renown track and cross country programs and oversaw its overall excellence in the West Suburban Silver.

Tosh played baseball at Northwestern University, where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees, according to York principal Diana Smith. “Jack touched many lives in the York community,” she said in a release. “Many of our staff members are close friends, and several were hired by Jack and coached alongside him.”

Tosh gained his national reputation as a director of athletics. His early passion and accomplishment was coaching basketball. After working as an assistant at Jack Burmaster at Evanston in the mid-1960s, Tosh took over the program at DeKalb.

In the 1967-68 season, Mr. Tosh directed the Barbs to a 29-4 record and a fourth-place finish in the single-class boys basketball state tournament. Interestingly, Burmaster’s Evanston team won the state title that year.

Legendary former West Aurora coach John McDougal, reached at his winter home in Florida, expressed great sadness at the passing of his former friend. The two battled as original members of the Upstate Eight Conference.

“He’s one of the greatest experiences I ever had in the Upstate Eight,” McDougal said. “I’m certainly in mourning. He was an impeccable individual, an outstanding coach and he was a brilliant athletic director. I thought everything about him was first class. I held him in high esteem.

“He was the epitome of everything good that’s associated with high school athletics,” he said.

That 1968 DeKalb team was led by Mark Voreis, Ron Shoger, who later starred at Northwestern, and Larry Coombs. “They beat us by one or two points at their place, and then we turned the tables on them pretty decisively at West Aurora, but they went on and represented our conference downstate,” McDougal said. “He molded them together and made them into a great team.”

Tosh left DeKalb and moved to York, where he coached football, basketball, baseball and golf. In 1974, he started the York Holiday tournament. It continually ranks with Proviso West, Pontiac and the Big Dipper as the best of the holiday tournaments.

Tosh retired as athletic director in 1990.

Riverside-Brookfield has been part of the field of teams at York for 15 years. “[Mr. Tosh] was a wonderful human being,” coach Tom McCloskey said. “We’d have a dinner before the tournament, and he would come speak. He was really funny and he had great stories. He was just a great guy. He took a lot of pride in the tournament, he reached out to everybody and he attended a lot of the games.”

St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore’s Chargers program never played in the tournament. They had a strong connection to York. “Many of our sectionals were at York, and they were always very well organized,” Pingatore said. “I knew his brother Dave, who was an official, and he was one of the best. Jack was very friendly and personable, just a super person, and a great guy.”

In late December behind star guard David Cohn, York captured its first Jack Tosh title since 1980 by beating Conant, "undoubtedly a source of great pride for Jack," said York principal Smith. She added funeral arrangements were pending.

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