Mike Neighbors is expected to leave the UW women's basketball team and return home to Arkansas. He broke into college coaching with the Razorbacks back in 1999 as the director of basketball operations.
During his four years at Washington, Huskies women’s basketball coach Mike Neighbors has downplayed his love affair for Arkansas women’s basketball on more than a few occasions.
After guiding Washington to three NCAA tournaments, two Sweet 16 trips and one Final Four appearance, Neighbors is seemingly poised to return to Arkansas and leave UW along with a talent-laden senior class that includes consensus player of the year Kelsey Plum, All-American Chantel Osahor and two-year starter Katie Collier.
UW officials were not immediately available, but sources close the team said Neighbors is expected to accept an offer from Arkansas.
He was believed to be the one of the top candidates for the Razorbacks along with Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer when Jimmy Dykes resigned March 3 following 13-17 season that included a 2-14 record in the SEC. After guiding Arkansas to the 2015 NCAA tournament his first year, Dykes had two losing seasons and was 43-49 in three years.
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A source familiar with the situation said the Razorbacks waited for Neighbors and Schaefer to finish their seasons with their respective teams. Conceivably, Arkansas was expected to make one last run at Schaefer following Mississippi State’s 67-55 loss to South Carolina on Sunday in the national championship game.
Neighbors, UW assistants and Plum traveled to Dallas for the Final Four this week where Plum collected a half dozen postseason awards, including the Naismith Trophy, Wade Trophy and was named the Associated Press player of the year.
Three years ago, Neighbors was a candidate for the Arkansas job when the Razorbacks chose Dykes.
Neighbors, a 47-year-old Greenwood, Ark. native, graduated from Arkansas and began coaching high schools girls basketball at two local schools. He broke into college coaching with the Razorbacks back in 1999 as the director of basketball operations for legendary Gary Blair. Neighbors was also a full-time assistant at Arkansas in 2006-07 for Susie Gardner.
Neighbors arrived at Washington in 2011 and was an assistant on Kevin McGuff’s staff for two seasons. When McGuff left for Ohio State, Neighbors took over a UW team that won at least 20 games under McGuff and last made the NCAA tournament in 2001.
Under Neighbors, Washington was 98-41, which is the third most wins during a four-year period in school history. Among his biggest accomplishments was mentoring Plum, the most prolific scorer in NCAA history.
Neighbors signed a five-year deal in 2013 when he was promoted to head coach. Washington added two years and a bump in pay to that original contract after the Huskies reached the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
When Neighbors guided UW to its first Final Four in school history last year, he received another two-year extension through the 2022-23 season and an increase in pay. His annual base salary is $290,004.
Neighbors has to pay UW $1 million to leave for another head-coaching position, per buyout conditions in his contract.