Mike Neighbors is a man of many talents, including playing the guitar. If he wasn't the UW women's basketball coach, the Arkansas native might be touring with a Nashville band.
A broken heart, figuratively, inspired Washington women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors to learn how to play guitar.
“I lost a girlfriend in college to a guy that was playing in a band and I was like I’m never going to let that happen again so I learned to play the guitar,” he said. “No lessons. My step dad played. I remember going home from college at Christmas and got his guitar out and I said show me a chord.
“He said, you’re going to learn to play? I’d messed with it before, but my fingers would bleed and they would hurt. I was never tough enough to keep doing it. That pain that changes you when you lose a girlfriend. I was like, alright I’m going to stick through this.”
Neighbors’ favorite room inside his newly purchased Mercer Island home is an acoustically, pitch-perfect echo chamber on the lower level where he stores and catalogs his expansive music and movie collection. This is also where he keeps his guitar collection.
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Neighbors still owns his first guitar, a black Fender that he purchased at a pawn shop for $300.
“I had to sell some baseball cards,” he said. “I was a big baseball card collector. I still remember, I sold a Johnny Bench rookie and Carl Yastrzemski rookie card. It was a little bit of a broken heart. Next time I went home, I got the chord down and said teach me another one. And he slowly but surely started teaching me. My older step brother is a really good guitarist. After I progressed past knowing everything my step dad knew, he taught me some stuff.
“And then the world of YouTube came along. You can literally type in lessons and sit right in front of it and learn. After you get the hang of it, you could to the point where I can hear a song now and pretty much be able to play it. … The slow process of teaching yourself is the funnest part of the whole thing.
“It took me five years before I could play a song that anybody could probably recognize. And then I found a guy who told me, pick one song that you really want to learn to play and then just have somebody teach you that song. That was ‘Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. It’s got a little guitar riff intro. That’s the first song I could play all the way through start to finish. If there was ever camp fire, that was the song that you were going to hear.”
No. 9 Washington (12-1) hosts cross-state rival Washington State (5-6) 7 p.m. Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena.