Neighbors arrived two years ago at the same time as former head coach Kevin McGuff, who left to coach at Ohio State.
If you would have asked Mike Neighbors to name his dream jobs in women’s basketball years ago, Washington wouldn’t have made the cut.
But after Neighbors arrived with Kevin McGuff two years ago as an assistant, that started to change. Neighbors’ conversion came full circle Friday, when the Huskies named him head coach just three days after McGuff abruptly left for Ohio State.
It is Neighbors’ first head-coaching job.
“When Kevin left,” Neighbors said in a release, “the first words out of my mouth were, ‘I want to be the head coach of the basketball team at the University of Washington — this particular team, these players, the recruits we have coming in.’
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“When I got into this business 13 years ago, Washington wasn’t one of my ‘dream jobs.’ My dream jobs were regional. But when I got here to Seattle with Kevin two years ago, to this program and this university, this became my dream job.”
Neighbors, 44, signed a five-year contract worth $350,000 in his first year, and his salary will increase $20,000 each year after that.
When McGuff arrived from Xavier two years ago, Neighbors joined him, and they guided the Huskies to the WNIT in their two seasons together. McGuff then left for Ohio State not long after he signed a contract extension through the 2019-20 season.
Washington’s 11 wins in the Pac-12 this season were the most since 2006-07, and McGuff and his staff recruited the program’s only McDonald’s All-Americans.
When McGuff left, athletic director Scott Woodward didn’t waste much time in selecting his replacement.
“The more we looked, the more we realized our best candidate was right here on our campus,” Woodward said in a statement. “Mike Neighbors is ready to continue what he and Coach McGuff and the staff have started. I want to continue the trajectory the program is on, in wins and losses, in how we are recruiting, and in academic performance. In my mind, Mike was the chief operating officer of the effort that started this trajectory.”
Neighbors is UW’s fourth coach since 2007. He takes over a team that returns forward Kate Collier, a McDonald’s All-American from Seattle Christian who redshirted this season because of a knee injury.
The Huskies will also bring in point guard Kelsey Plum, another McDonald’s All-American who is a high-school senior this year.
Neighbors has also been an assistant at Xavier, Arkansas, Colorado and Tulsa. UW will formally announce him at a news conference next week.