Referencing his grandfather’s archived tapes, high school student Kanoa Leahey worked to find his broadcasting voice, and in the process found a passion he continually finds both enjoyable and challenging.
Son of Jim Leahey and grandson of Chuck Leahey, the former “Voice of the Rainbows” in the 1960s and ’70s, Kanoa was born into a broadcast family.
“I didn’t know my grandfather that well, but I heard all the stories growing up in our household. I remember playing Wiffle Ball in the driveway and doing the play-by-play, making up names and the lineups, changing up stances to match players. It may have been borderline crazy, but was imagination-filled,” says Leahey, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Aug. 26, 1998.
Rehabbing a knee injury while at Iolani High School, Leahey was asked to help cover radio play-by-play of ILH girls basketball games.
“Naively I took the position, not thinking about the ramifications of the fact I had no real experience other then sitting in the booth with my dad throughout childhood. I didn’t think I was good, but also didn’t think it was beyond me. When you fall in love with something, you allow yourself to be able to strive for excellence, and I think over the years I’ve been able to grow as a broadcaster because of my enthusiasm for what I do,” adds Leahey, who as a freshmen at UH-Manoa was offered a unique scholarship by then-Hawaii Pacific University president Chatt Wright to transfer to HPU to cover the Sea Warriors athletic radio broadcasts.
Leahey then climbed the sports desk ranks of the local television stations and was offered the sports director position at FOX affiliate KHON2 in 2004, a position from which he has recently stepped down to concentrate on his play-by-play endeavors.
“It’s the thing that brings me the most gratification – when you’re out there, essentially at a big community festival, and have this big group of people paying attention, hanging on to every movement, every bounce of the game that is at hand. I love being in that atmosphere,” says Leahey, who has plans to cover more NCAA basketball on ESPN’s national and regional networks.
Leahey also continues to cover high school sports for Oceanic Cable station OC-16, a job in which he takes much pride.
“That’s what it all comes down to. When I first started doing play-by-play, I did high school sports. It is essentially what I consider the purest form of athletics. These kids are playing because it is something they enjoy, something they want to be a part of. What we (broadcasters) have to stay away from is the notion that somehow we are a part of the story. The story is the people on the field, they surround the athletes and the coaches that are putting themselves on the line each and every game.”