About two years ago Mike Neighbors arrived on the UW campus from Xavier, and he got a glimpse of his “dream job.” He wanted to be the head coach of the Huskies. After Friday morning’s introductory press conference, he can say it’s his dream-come-true job.
The UW officially announced Neighbors as the next head coach of the Washington women’s basketball team Friday. He takes over for former head coach Kevin McGuff, who suddenly left the program to take the same position with Ohio State on April 16.
In two years under McGuff, the Huskies notched two-straight WNIT berths and back-to-back 20-win seasons. Neighbors seeks to continue the momentum built by his predecessor as he takes over the reins.
“That’s what we’re going to try to capture upon,” Neighbors said in a subtle southern twang that shows his Arkansas roots. “If you went to the Pac-12 tournament, you know that Seattle supports women’s basketball. We have an excellent fan base, and we’re going to keep that going on the court and build this fan base.”
The first major hurdle for Neighbors is already cleared: He announced that the program will retain its entire coaching staff, all current players, as well as all three recruits for the coming season, including McDonald’s All-American Kelsey Plum.
Kevin Morrison and Adia Barnes will remain on the coaching staff. Morrison will be named the associate head coach, while Barnes will take a larger role in recruiting in the coming seasons. Neighbors also announced the hiring of Fred Castro, a former assistant coach from Tulsa.
Athletic director Scott Woodward said the search to find McGuff’s replacement was the “fastest and most intense national search we’ve ever had.” But in the end, the UW didn’t bring in any outside candidates after seeing the options they had in Neighbors, Morrison, and Barnes.
Neighbors was the unanimous favorite from players to replace McGuff, and many past and present players attended the press conference, including Kristi Kingma, who just finished her five-year career with the Huskies, and Talia Walton, who was named to the All-Pac-12 freshman team this past season.
Neighbors said it was the players that turned the UW head coaching spot into his dream job. Now that he has that job intact, he intends to keep those players in the limelight of the program.
“I will take care of our kids, first and foremost,” he said. “I will be there for them, and that’s not going to change.”
Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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