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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 6, 2010 at 8:34 AM

Joe Kearney, athletic director who hired Don James, passes away

Joe Kearney, who was athletic director at Washington from 1969-76 and hired Don James as football coach and Marv Harshman as men’s basketball coach, died at the age of 83 Wednesday. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Kearney also was a graduate of Seattle Pacific, where he played basketball, and worked as teacher and coach at several high schools in the state, including Sunnyside, Onalaska and Tumwater, and also spent a year working with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
He left UW to become athletic director at Michigan State, where he hired Jud Heathcote as basketball coach — he was AD there from 1976-80, a time during which Magic Johnson led the Spartans to an NCAA title.
Kearney was succeeded at UW in 1976 by Mike Lude, who had been James’ AD at Kent State.
He later had a short stint as AD at Arizona State and then was commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference from 1980-94. He retired to Tucson and was profiled in a column by Greg Hansen just two weeks ago.
He worked at UW from 1964-76 overall, taking over as athletic director in May, 1969. He hired Harshman away from Washington State in 1971 as basketball coach, then made the hire he will forever be remembered for at UW in Dec., 1974 when he picked James as football coach.
James was actually Kearney’s third choice for the job as he had initally zeroed in on Dan Devine, who was then with the Green Bay Packers and decided to take over at Notre Dame, instead; and Mike White, who decided to stay at Cal.
This 1990 story from the Times also says it was Kearney who had the initial idea to add the deck to the north side of Husky Stadium, a plan that didn’t come to fruition until 1987.

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