HEAD COACH MIKE NEIGHBORS
The University of Arkansas welcomed home Mike Neighbors as the ninth coach in Arkansas women’s basketball history on April 2, 2017. Neighbors returns to his alma mater after four seasons as the head coach at the University of Washington where he led the Huskies to their first-ever Final Four.
Neighbors guided Washington to four seasons of unprecedented success, highlighted by the 2016 NCAA Final Four and two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. Named the program’s head coach after two years as an assistant, Neighbors led the Huskies to a 98-41 record that was fueled by three consecutive 23-plus win seasons and included four postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 1 WNIT).
Entering the 2016 NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed, Neighbors led Washington to victories over No. 10 seed Penn, No. 2 seed Maryland, No. 3 seed Kentucky and No. 4 seed Stanford before squaring off with Syracuse in the national semifinal.
It was a drama-filled run as Washington had to use fourth quarter heroics to top Penn, 65-53, behind a 23-point effort in the final frame. On the road at Maryland, the Huskies secured the upset with a 32-point performance from Kelsey Plum. The back-and-forth contest saw Neighbors captain Washington on a 16-2 run erasing a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter to hold on to the win.
The victories over Kentucky and Stanford took place in Rupp Arena in games in which Washington started fast and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in the wins.
Neighbors also mentored the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer Kelsey Plum. Plum was a unanimous Associated Press All-American selection after leading the nation in scoring. Plum became the all-time NCAA scoring leader finishing her career with 3,527 points. She is also the NCAA single-season scoring record holder with 1,109 points, passing Jackie Stiles (1,062).
Plum’s honors include selection to the WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team (April 1, 2017), and 2017 player of the year honors with the Citizen Naismith Trophy, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, the Nancy Lieberman Award as the best point guard as well as being named as the 2017 Associated Press’ Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year.
Plum added a Wooden Award All-America selection this week and is one of five finalists for the 41st Annual presentation of the John R. Wooden Award taking place as part of the presentation of the ESPN College Basketball Awards on Friday, April 7.
Neighbors was hired by Xavier head coach Kevin McGuff in time for the 2007-08 season. He continued as McGuff’s assistant through the 2010–11 season, during which time the Musketeers were 108–22, winning the A10 Conference Tournament three of the four years, making the NCAA tournament each year, and advancing to the Elite Eight in 2010, losing to national runner-up Stanford by just two points. While at Xavier, Neighbors was selected as one of the best assistant coaches in the country. He was chosen as one of five recipients for the BasketballScoop.com and ONS Performance Rising Star award.
While with the Musketeers, Neighbors developed Amber Harris and Ta’Shia Phillips, two of the best players in program history. Harris was a two-time State Farm All-America selection and was drafted fourth overall by the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Phillips was considered as one of the premier defensive players in the nation and finished her career as the leading rebounder in program history.
Prior to his time at Xavier, Neighbors was at the University of Arkansas, where he was an assistant coach for a season, his second stint in Fayetteville. Prior to returning to his alma mater, Neighbors was an assistant coach at the University of Colorado and the University of Tulsa, both under Kathy McConnell-Miller. In Boulder, Neighbors helped recruit the school’s all-time leading scorer in Brittany Spears, a 2011 WNBA draft selection. At Tulsa, Neighbors was an assistant on the up-and-coming Hurricane’s program that enjoyed back-to-back postseason appearances.
A native of Greenwood, Ark., Neighbors received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas in 1993. Following his graduation, Neighbors was a director of basketball operations for the women’s basketball program, serving under legendary coach Gary Blair, who won the NCAA Championship in 2011 with Texas A&M. Before moving into the collegiate profession, Neighbors was a highly successful head coach in the Arkansas girls’ high school ranks. His most notable achievement was taking a 1-24 Bentonville team to the State Championships two years later.
Neighbors has two children, a daughter Abby and a son Alec.