Jeff Long has hired Washington head coach and Arkansas native Mike Neighbors to replace Jimmy Dykes as the head coach for Arkansas’ women’s basketball program.
Word started to leak out yesterday through multiple media outlets in Arkansas and in Washington, but Arkansas today released what I suppose we should call an acceptance letter written by Neighbors expressing his love of Arkansas, particularly Arkansas basketball.
As we wrote yesterday, Neighbors had an excellent run at Washington, 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. He also coached Kelsey Plum at Washington, who just this weekend won the Naismith Award as the top player in women’s college basketball.
His connection to both Arkansas and the UA runs deep. 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.
Here’s the situation we described awaits Neighbors:
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.
We can safely say Arkansas’ two basketball coaches both describe the Arkansas position as their dream jobs as both coaches left pretty great situations to come to Fayetteville. Neighbors even just bought a house in the Seattle area months ago. The SEC, which featured both finalists in the national championship game on Sunday, is a very tough women’s basketball conference. Arkansas has shown an ability to support successful women’s programs, including gymnastics, soccer, and track (and softball is looking up) so there is great potential in the women’s basketball program. Hopefully, Neighbors can reopen it.