Jim Leahey: Hawaii sports announcer icon remembered

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Jim Leahey, the longtime broadcaster of UH sports, has died at the age of 80. Family and friends mourn the loss of the voice that dominated the airwaves for six decades.

Be it football, basketball, volleyball or many other UH sports, Jim Leahey provided the play-by-play on TV and radio. His son Kanoa said nothing brought his father more joy than seeing UH teams succeed.

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“So it was really special that he served as the soundtrack, the narrator for so many of those moments; and I think what we discovered today is how much that meant to a lot of people out there in the community,” Kanoa said.

The family said Jim died after a long illness. He retired in 2018 and spoke to KHON2 about the pressures of being the voice of UH sport.

“When you had the job that I had, you had to deliver every day, every week, because there was a different game in a different sport with different people,” Jim said in 2019.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi worked alongside him for 13 years overseeing UH football.

“He had this special ability. He could put you in play right before the game and then throughout the game, and sometimes he could turn even the simplest of plays into a very exciting element,” said Blangiardi.

And those who knew him well said he also had that sharp wit that was a lot of fun to be around.

“Even though he drove me crazy at different times, he was always so much fun to be with because he had this zest for life,” Blangiardi said.

“He had this ability to tear people apart right in front of their faces and then they walk away and go, ‘Wow, Jim is such a cool guy,'” Kanoa said.

Former colleagues point out that Leahey could have worked anywhere. But sports fans here are lucky he never wanted to leave.

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“There is no question in my mind that he could make it big. He could have been a national broadcaster, but he didn’t want to leave Hawaii,” said Pal Eldredge, who worked with Leahey on UH baseball games.

Leahey leaves behind a wife, three children and one grandchild.