KHS Girls Playing For Hoops Pioneer

While the NBA was locked out and trying to determine how to divide up its billion-dollar enterprise, a renaissance man and an ambassador for his generation of pro basketball players passed away on Kaua’i.

William Tosheff, better known simply as “Tosh,” died Oct. 1 at his daughter’s ranch in Omao. Though he had never previously made Kaua’i his home, he chose to live out his final days here.

“He was terminally ill with cancer and wanted to be here in our ranch in Omao so he could see the beautiful valley and our sheep grazing in the open pastures,” says his daughter, Michelle Emura, a 28-year Kaua’i resident.

His impact on the NBA has been far-reaching, beginning back in his first season in 1951 with the Indianapolis Olympians, when he was named CoRookie of the Year.

After two seasons in Indianapolis, Tosh spent a season with the Milwaukee Hawks.

More recently, he went to great lengths to secure proper pension benefits for those who played in the NBA before 1965.

He was also a World War II veteran and interacted with Fidel Castro and Ernest Hemingway during a minor-league baseball career in Cuba.

But his contributions closer to home can be seen on the hardwood with the Kaua’i High School Raider Wahine and coach Sandi NadataniMendez, who first met Tosh about eight years ago.

“I was coaching an (under-12) boys basketball team at Kalaheo Neighborhood Center, and Tosh was helping his granddaughter Leah Emura’s basketball team,” she says. “We began talking, and I became intrigued by his knowledge and his willingness to share with me. He took time to even speak to the boys I was coaching.”

Michelle Emura with her father, Bill “Tosh” Tosheff. Photos courtesy Michelle Emura

From then on, the two exchanged emails regularly as he shared more of his hoops IQ.

“Tosh was a giver and always willing to pass on the vast amount of knowledge he had for basketball and about life, (for which) I am and will always be eternally grateful,” says Coach Sandi.

This past February, Tosh was able to provide access to NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles for Nadatani-Mendez, Leah Emura (who played two seasons for NadataniMendez at Kaua’i High) and other family members.

Though he was too ill to join them, the group got a chance to meet many other retired stars including Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen and Lisa Leslie a “surreal” experience, says the coach.

As Tosh was resting at the Omao ranch, NadataniMendez visited so the two could talk more hoops. Michelle Emura says that though he was quite sick, when Nadatani-Mendez was there, it was like nothing was wrong.

“Upon hearing of Tosh’s passing, I was heartbroken,” Nadatani-Mendez says. “But I knew he was suffering no more. I quickly made the decision that I would dedicate our 201112 basketball season in honor of him. I spoke to my coaches and players and let them know what my intentions were.”

The Raider Wahine are hoping to take the next step after losing last season’s KIF championship to Kapa’a at the buzzer in overtime.

Before the girls varsity game in Lihu’e on Tuesday, there will be a ceremony to give Michelle and Leah a plaque in appreciation and remembrance of Tosh’s contributions.

“I am a better person and coach because of him,” Coach Sandi says.