The Seattle Times is reporting that Washington head women’s basketball coach and Arkansas native Mike Neighbors is close to returning home to take the same job with the Razorbacks.
Washington is Neighbors’ first head coaching position and he’s had a great run in Seattle, winning 20+ games all four years and making it to the Final Four in 2016 and Sweet 16 in 2017. His total record is 98-40 and 47-25 in conference games.
Neighbors was born in Greenwood, Arkansas, attended Arkansas as a student, was the director of operations for Arkansas from 1999-2001 and an assistant coach at Arkansas for the 2006-07 season. He began his coaching career at Bentonville and Cabot High Schools in the Natural State. His roots here run deep, and considering his success in a head coaching role at Washington, it seems like this was probably an easy choice for Jeff Long.
Neighbors referred to Arkansas as his “dream job” when it came open in 2014, but as we all know, Long took a gamble with Jimmy Dykes. However, Neighbors only had one year of head-coaching experience at the time. He’s led the Huskies ever since, and it’s fortunate for Arkansas that he wants to come home. He even bought a new home in the Seattle area just months ago.
The work will be cut out for Neighbors. Arkansas finished dead last in the SEC this year and some of Dykes’ most highly-recruited young players like Jordan Danberry and Aaliyah Wilson have announced their transfer from Arkansas (Danberry has already enrolled at Mississippi State). If Neighbors is named the new coach of the Razorbacks, he’ll likely try to quickly get a chance to talk to Central Arkansas Christian star Christyn Williams, one of the top recruits in the 2018 class who recently released a top 5 list that did not include Arkansas. Neighbors did coach Kelsey Plum at Washington, who just this weekend won the Naismith Award as the top player in women’s college basketball, so Neighbors does have experience coaching elite talent.
According to the Seattle Times article: “From 2015-17, Neighbors’ annual salary was $360,000. It’s believed terms of his contract require him to pay UW $1 million to leave for another head-coaching position.” They also report that Arkansas was also considering current Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer, who was once an Arkansas assistant coach. However, Schaefer just led the historic upset of UConn Friday night and is coaching for a national championship on Sunday. He’s also thought to have deeper ties to Texas A&M. It seems Neighbors would be the most obvious choice.