As a youth, David Cohn spent many winters watching games at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic. Cohn would visualize making highlight-reel plays, hitting 3-pointers, all the while leading York to the championship trophy at the esteemed holiday tournament.
“My uncle is a huge high school sports fan,” Cohn said. “He went to York games a lot, and brought me and my cousin along. We loved it. As 10-year olds, we wanted nothing more than to star at York in the championship game of the Tosh.
“We would be out in the backyard doing fake starting lineups and fake simulations of the games. We were personally fond of the Joe Acosta and Steve Crane teams.”
A few years later, Cohn would live out his dream and suit up for the Dukes, and became a star attraction at the annual tournament. He was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2012 tournament – the first time York captured the team title in 30 years.
Eight years later, the Dukes were denied an opportunity to win the prestigious trophy because the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With each passing year, the Jack Tosh Holiday tournament has grown in stature, helped by the field growing to 32 teams, a strong online presence and the generous hospitality of the host school that leads to many top programs bypassing other tournaments.
York first-year coach Mike Dunn admitted not coaching in the 47th version of the Jack Tosh this season was another frustrating aspect of the pandemic. Dunn knows well how much the tournament means to the basketball community, and the community of Elmhurst. His great-grandfather, Clarence D. East, was York’s first head basketball coach and first athletic director. Dunn has regularly attended the Jack Tosh over the years to scout teams.
“It’s has such a great legacy and means so much to the Elmhurst community, but it will be back next season,” Dunn said. “I’m looking forward to coaching in it and being a part of it.
“We’ll be ready for 2021. We had a loaded 2020 tournament with great teams, but we have all the contracts signed for next season. We’re keeping the tournament at 32 teams, and we will be better next season. I just feel bad for our seniors, like Jeff Grace who has been a part of the program for four years and played in the championship game. The seniors won’t have another chance to play in the tournament.”
The tournament is named after Jack Tosh, who coached boys basketball at DeKalb – leading the Barbs to fourth place in the state in 1968 – and who was athletic director at York from the mid 1970′s until his retirement in 1990. It was Tosh, a 1989 inductee into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, who started what was originally called the York Holiday Festival in 1974. The tournament was renamed the Jack Tosh Tournament after his retirement.
Naturally, Cohn calls the 2012 title his fondest memory of the tournament. The 6-foot-2 Cohn played for Colorado State and William & Mary, then for the Philadelphia 76ers summer league team. Cohn has played the last two season overseas in Israel, but plans to join an NBA G League team.
“Winning the Jack Tosh was like things coming full circle for me and my cousin, my uncle and dad,” Cohn said. “We had watched it and wanted to achieve it, and fortunately we were able to actually live that out. I’m pretty sentimental, so those types of things are really important to me and I cherish times like that.”
Former York standout center Frank Toohey, who played at Air Force, had a short walk to attend the tournament.
“Growing up across the street from York, we would go every year,” Toohey said. “I grew up watching Will Sullivan. My best memory is, without a doubt, winning the 2012 tournament against Conant.”
Former York point guard Nick Kosich, now a sophomore guard at Benedictine, also attend the tournament regularly during his childhood before guiding the Dukes to a pair of tourney titles, including in 2018.
“It was my dream to play for York and in the Jack Tosh tourney,” he said. “I loved watching all the great players from York, like David Cohn, Will Sullivan and Frank Toohey.
“As a player, winning those Jack Tosh tournaments are moments that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”
Erik Cohn, a sophomore guard at Trinity Christian College, had a special bond to the York program watching his older brother, David, live out his high school dreams. Erik Cohn sparked the Dukes to the 2018 title, but he said the tournament has been a family affair for many years.
“My dad was the head of the concession for the tournament and I would help him get Gatorade, Coke and other stuff for the tournament, and then we would watch my brother play,” Erik Cohn said. “The tournament is so unique to York, and it’s an amazing tournament. Winning the tournament in my senior year was the pinnacle of my career as a Duke.”
North Dakota freshman guard Nate Shockey, a 2019 York graduate, started making a name for himself in the Chicago area through his performances at the Jack Tosh his final two seasons. He scored 23 points in last season’s title-game loss to Bolingbrook.
Shockey, who has played in eight games this season for the Fighting Hawks, said the Jack Tosh tourney holds special memories for him.
“As a player, everyone on the team looked forward to the Tosh because we hosted it and it was a chance to play in front of our fans, ”Shockey said. “I will always remember the atmosphere in the gym against Downers Grove South in 2018. It was New Year’s Eve, and we were able to beat them after going back and forth the whole game. Celebrating with our student section after the game was a fun memory that I’ll always have.”