FAYETTEVILLE — When one talks to University of Arkansas women’s basketball head coach Mike Neighbors they always get an honest answer.
Neighbors admitted recently he’s not sorry to see his friend and former Arkansas assistant Vic Schaefer leave Mississippi State for Texas.
“I was floored,” Neighbors said. “I was absolutely floored. I tried to keep up with that. Everybody was predicting who was going. Man, you would have never seen me bet one dollar on Vic. But it makes sense when you look now. When you see some potential cuts going on at Mississippi State. Vic is a Texas guy. I don’t think there’s any sign that Coach (Gary) Blair is retiring anytime soon. It makes some sense now that you look back at it. Obviously, I’m glad he’s out of the league. I’m not going to hold back on that.
“He has built Mississippi State into a monster. I’m not saying Nikki (McCray-Penson) is not gonna keep it going, but I know what Vic had done improving it. He had built a house there in Mississippi. He had convinced me that was the place he was gonna be for the rest of his life. I was shocked, but it makes sense now when you see all the details of the contract, length and the security and resources. It’s easy to make sense out of it, but I was incredibly shocked and will go on record, I will say it to his face, I’m glad he’s out of the SEC.”
Neighbors and Schaefer were once together on Blair’s staff at Arkansas. That is when the friendship really started and then the two have met five times including when Neighbors was at both Washington and Arkansas with Schaefer holding a 5-0 advantage.
“Hardest team for us to play against even mentioning South Carolina,” Neighbors said.
Neighbors was the the director of operations at Arkansas from the 1999-2000 through 2000-01 seasons when Schaefer was the top assistant assistant coach for Blair.
Neighbors was asked if he had talked to Schaefer since he went to Austin?
“I have not talked to him since he has taken the job,” Neighbors said. “I sent him a text, but I know how many you get when you take a job like that so I don’t really expect a response. I think he will do great. I think he will rally the fanbase, I think he will rally the recruiting base and I think he’ll use the plethora of resources he has at the new I think they put the number at $500 million facility they are building. I have no doubt he will take Texas up a notch. They have been competitive. It’s a hinder down there. Karen (Aston), an Arkansas girl, they’ve been to two Sweet 16’s and an Elite 8 and it wasn’t satisfactory so I know Vic’s expectations will be really high and I’m sure they’ll live up to them.”
Since coming to Arkansas to replace Jimmy Dykes, Neighbors has had to face both Blair and Schaefer each season. He admitted that wasn’t always a comfortable situation.
“I will tell you this our friendship was strained playing each other,” Neighbors said. “It’s just hard. We recruit against each other. We had to play each other so it’s not easy to play against people who are not only your friends, but somewhat your mentors. Coach Blair I still talk to him. We have about a one week waiting period after we play, win or lose. As much as we hate to lose, we’re equally as happy if we have to lose it’s to each other.
“But it’s hard it can strain your relationship if you let it. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about that with Vic any more. I can just focus on not straining mine with Coach. It’s hard to do with him because he is so gracious and hopefully I can learn from and that and be better at that when we do win.”
Mississippi State is the lone SEC school that Neighbors hasn’t beaten since returning to Arkansas.