Neighbors leaves UW to become head coach at Arkansas

Washington head coach Mike Neighbors reacts to a call against his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California on Jan. 6 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington head coach Mike Neighbors reacts to a call against his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California on Jan. 6 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Associated Press

Mike Neighbors is coming home after Arkansas hired him to coach the women’s basketball team Monday.

“It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10 years old,” Neighbors said. “I used to cry when the Razorbacks lost and I didn’t know why. It’s because I loved the Razorbacks so much.”

He grew up in Arkansas and can still recite the names of all the players on the Razorbacks teams of the 1970s and 1980s.

“I used to walk around with a Sidney Moncrief jersey and pretend I could shoot like him,” Neighbors said.

Neighbors spent the past four seasons guiding Washington. He led the Huskies to their first Final Four last season and the regional semifinals this year.

“I feel like everything that I have done in my career has prepared me to be the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Arkansas,” Neighbors said. “As a native Arkansasan, I understand how special our state and the University are. There is only one Razorback and I’m excited to be able to put that logo on my chest and represent our institution and our state across the country.”

He got his degree from Arkansas in 1993 and spent a year serving as the director of basketball operations for the women’s program under Gary Blair. Neighbors returned to be an assistant coach at the school for one more year before moving on to Xavier and then Washington.

He signed a six-year deal with the Razorbacks that will pay him $600,000 plus incentives.

“Coming here was the only way I can fulfill my grandfather Hughes Bridges’ wish of being an Arkansas great,” Neighbors said. “I was never good enough athletically to be an All-American, but now I can do it another way.”

Neighbors’ daughter is a junior at the school and most of his living relatives are within a two-hour radius of campus.

He said he felt bad for the players he was leaving at Washington.

“I’m saying goodbye for now to a group of people that I owe a lot to. They gave me a chance after being a long-time assistant coach to lead a program. I asked my kids to do a lot of hard things. We as coaches have to do hard things too.”

Neighbors replaces Jimmy Dykes, who resigned last month after three seasons.

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