Jim Leahey, an eloquent and ever-present voice synonymous with Hawaii sportscasting for nearly 60 years, died this morning after a long illness.
The family released a statement saying, “Today we lost the patriarch of our family. A man known by his supreme talents for storytelling, an unrelenting passion for Hawaii and the teams and athletes that represent it, and a lifelong love for the craft of sports broadcasting. Jim Leahey was also a loyal and loving husband, father and grandfather, who placed his family and his faith above all.
“He took tremendous pride in supplying the narration for some of the University of Hawaii’s greatest athletic achievements, and cherished seeing the community come together, united, to root for the home team. We thank everyone for their well wishes and support at this mournful time.
“As our dad would always say to close his broadcasts, ‘malama pono kekahi i kekahi.’”
Leahey, 80, was most known as the prolific play-by-play voice for the University of Hawaii sports on TV and radio. But he also hosted several radio and TV magazine-type shows over the years, most recently “Leahey and Leahey,” with his son, Kanoa, on Hawaii Public Television.
He was famed for his calls of UH football, basketball and baseball games, but worked many other sports, too.
“Some years I was doing as many as seven different UH sports a year,” Leahey told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2018. “It was great.”
Leahey was inducted into the University of Hawaii’s Sports Circle of Honor in 2016.
He retired in 2018. Leahey also worked sportscasts with his father, Chuck, in the 1960s.
Kanoa Leahey is now the lead TV sportscaster for most UH sports.
“I enjoyed working with Josh Pacheco and Scottie Robbs, but I’m 75 years old now and don’t want to take a position from guys who are coming up and working hard,” Leahey said at the time.
Before becoming a full-time sportscaster, Leahey was a school teacher, most notably at Campbell High School. He continued teaching unofficially, as a mentor to generations of up-and-coming Hawaii sports journalists.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi broadcasted UH sporting events with Leahey for more than a decade.
“I feel very privileged to be able to say Jim Leahey and I were more than just friends,” Blangiardi said in a statement. “We shared 13 unforgettable football seasons doing University of Hawaiʻi games on radio and television. Jim had a very rare and special ability to connect with people, especially in capturing the pride of Hawaii’s people with the success of our teams, not just in football, but in every sport!
“Jim could stir your emotions, and that made every game a worthwhile experience, no matter the score. In a business where champions are revered, Jim Leahey was a champion, and his legacy and many contributions to Hawaii’s sports will never be forgotten!”
Leahey is survived by his wife, Toni, three children and one grand child.
I feel very privileged to be able to say Jim Leahey and I were more than just friends. We shared 13 unforgettable football seasons doing University of Hawaiʻi games on radio and television. pic.twitter.com/Gr6Zkc5VFn
— Mayor Rick Blangiardi (@MayorRickHNL) January 30, 2023
ICYMI: Legend Jim “Pops” Leahey joined son, @kanoa_leahey, and Artie Wilson, during the halftime break to reminisce about his time calling many, many @HawaiiMBB games.
Full video on our #SpecSportsHI Facebook/Instagram pages.#HawaiiMBB 🏀🏀🏀 pic.twitter.com/EZGC0veoKV
— Spectrum Sports HI (@specsportshi) January 26, 2020