40 years after Radford’s baseball state title, Coach Donald Kimura dies

Former Radford coach Don Kimura relived the glory days with former catcher Chris Tatum in 2007.

Baseball was in Donald Kimura’s blood.

The longtime Radford coach taught and coached at Radford for 32 years. Later, he helped with the intermediate program at Punahou while Eric Kadooka guided the varsity during a seven-year reign of state championships in the 2000s.

Kimura died on Wednesday morning.


Forty seasons ago, in 1979, Radford went unbeaten through the regular season and state tournament, only the second program to do so in state history. The Rams defeated ‘Iolani 7-4 in the final. Radford Athletic Director Kelly Sur was a JV assistant coach to Kimura for three years, then a varsity assistant for seven seasons.

“He was even-keeled, never too high or too low,” said Sur, who replaced Kimura as Radford baseball coach in 1993. “His philosophy was to teach, then ‘Let them play.’ Seems his teaching style was far ahead in terms of teaching mastery and letting kids learn when they failed through self-assessment. He will be missed by the Radford family.”

In addition to the Radford state-championship season, one of the most memorable moments came in 1976 when Radford and Pearl City engaged in a 19-inning, 5-hour, 19-minute battle at a new facility in Halawa. Radford won the game 1-0, and the photo above features Coach Kimura and catcher Chris Tatum, who had the game-winning hit.

UPDATE
Kadooka shared his memories of Coach Kimura.

“Coach Don started at Punahou with Coach Eric Kusunoki in 2001 as the intermediate pitching coach. Don was extremely knowledgeable and played a mentoring role, teaching us younger coaches how to coach and deal with situations. He provided instant credibility,” Kadooka said.


The Punahou baseball program’s Twitter account posted this:

” ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ Hawaii Baseball lost a legend today. Mahalo Coach Don Kimura for a life of service. Countless Radford and @sonsofoahu ballplayers owe you a huge debt of gratitude. #family.”

Former Radford wrestling standout Yoshi Honda shared the news on social media, and many alums commented about Kimura’s humility and impact on the field and in the classroom. Honda went on to become a state-championship coach himself in wrestling. He wrote this:

“Great coach
Great educator
Great man
#ramdown
RIP mr kimura”


One former player, Jeff Obrero, added this: “I had the honor to be coached by this great man. RIP Mr. Kimura.”

Obrero posted a photo of the ’79 championship team and allowed HPW to post it with permission.

The Radford Rams defeated the ‘Iolani Raiders in the final of the 1979 HHSAA Baseball State Championships under Coach Donald Kimura. Photo courtesy of Jeff Obrero.
This plaque at James Alegre Gymnasium honors longtime baseball coach Donald Kimura, who passed away on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Photo courtesy of Kelly Sur.

COMMENTS

  1. eric kadooka May 16, 2019 7:20 pm

    our condolences go out to the entire Kimura family in this difficult time

    Coach Don started at punahou w coach eric kusunoki from 2001 to idk what year or if he stopped coaching at punahou as the intermediate pitching coach after a long career as the radford hs head coach winning the state championship in 1979 at Radford HS

    Don was extremely knowledgeable and played a mentoring role teaching us younger coaches how to deal w situations and provided our baseball program instant creditability by his presence

    Many of Don’s players went on to become State Champions.


  2. Krusha May 17, 2019 7:20 am

    RIP coach Kimura. I remember taking classes from him while attending Radford and also taking driver’s ed classes from him. He has a lot of interesting stories to tell that I still remember to this day.


  3. David Jones May 17, 2019 9:38 am

    I am truly sorry to learn of Coach Kimura’s passing. I played baseball for Coach Kimura at Radford in 1965 and 1966. He was a great coach and made playing the game a joy. Moe i ka maluhia Coach Kimura.

    David Jones
    Radford Class of 1966


  4. Don Clark May 17, 2019 6:29 pm

    Fond memories of Coach Kimura and our ‘79 season.

    Rest easy and so long, Coach

    Don Clark. Class of 1980.


  5. BeeWhyU11 May 17, 2019 8:06 pm

    Peter Kendrick was on that Radford team.


  6. Mark Olmos May 18, 2019 5:37 am

    Love and prayers to his family. Don coached and shaped me me during my time as a Ram. His wisdom has served me all my life. Godspeed coach!


  7. Ed Oshiro May 18, 2019 12:38 pm

    Oh no! A legendary Radford Baseball coach has passed. I coached and taught with Don for many years at Radford High School and he was highly respected by other teachers, coaches and administrators too! He not only was great coach, but was a loving father, husband, teacher and friend! He inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of students and athletes in the 1960’s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Two of his best players were Peter Kendrick and Roy Thomas from the State Championship Team who went undefeated! I could name a whole bunch of other players; but this is about the MAN—Don Kimura who made a difference in the lives of students! We will miss him; but he has left a legacy that lives on forever!” We are all proud and honored to have known him! With deepest sympathy to wife Kay, and daughters Lynn, and Jill…stay strong!”


  8. Keith Borom (Smith) May 22, 2019 8:15 am

    RIP Mr. Kimura. I played on his varsity team from 1985 – 1987. He was the best coach I ever had. He taught me as well as others how to learn from our mistakes in a fashion that showed a man with compassion and knowledge of the game. You re truly missed by me and so many others., You were and will always be a Legend.

    My deepest condolences to the Kimura Ohana


  9. Iris Linogon Kikuchi June 10, 2019 5:05 pm

    Such a great baseball coach and he will always be remembered. I was fortunate that he invited the cheerleaders to go on the baseball trip to Sacramento during my senior year of high school 1977. It was one of my highlights during high school. We landed in San Francisco, took a bus to Sacramento, played two games then bussed it to Reno for a few days. Then bussed it back to SF for a couple days. So many memories were made all because of Mr Kimura. He was such a gentle man with a big heart..he will be missed…RIP Mr. Kimura…thank you for being the best coach for Radford High School!!!


  10. Paul Pate June 10, 2019 5:41 pm

    I do remember this coach…a day during practice a ball was hit to outfield while I was hanging out…I picked it up and threw it to home plate…he came trotting out (I thought I was again in trouble) and told me I had an arm…tried to recruit me but sports wasn’t my bag. He had some kind advise for me and really treated me like a human being.
    I wished I had listened and at least tried my hand at baseball..life may have turned out different…him and Mr Fong were the only 2 who treated me decent…will always remember them both.
    Paul Pate
    Class of 77


  11. Tim Hawkinson June 10, 2019 6:44 pm

    I was fortunate to play for him for three years ‘78 ‘79 & ‘80. Wonderful memories of our 1979 team. Coach Kimura taught me many things about the game but what I learned most was how to be coached. He was a great one. RIP coach


  12. Reed Anderson July 7, 2019 3:19 am

    Great memories of Coach Kimura. He’ll will be greatly missed. Deepest condolences to the family.


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