In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Arkansas women’s basketball head coach Mike Neighbors joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss why he does what he does.
Mike Neighbors enters his third season at the helm of Arkansas, coming off of one of the best and most dynamic seasons in program history, as his 2018-19 Hogs became one of just four Razorback squads since the turn of the century to win at least 22 games.
Known for his offensive philosophy, Neighbors’ 2018-19 squad broke several school records, including most points in a single season, a record that had stood at Arkansas since the 1981-82 season. The Hogs were also lethal from deep, as they made a school-record 296 three-pointers over the course of the season.
Prior to Arkansas, Neighbors guided Washington to four seasons of unprecedented success, highlighted by the 2016 NCAA Final Four and two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. Named the program’s head coach after two years as an assistant, Neighbors led the Huskies to a 98-41 record that was fueled by three consecutive 23-plus win seasons and included four postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 1 WNIT).
“I think everything should be challenged and questioned and made into your own . . we go to a clinic and we hear a successful coach . . because of their success, we want to model those things.”
“You go to the clinics . . there’s two curses . . there’s the curse where you try to do everything and then there’s the curse where you just are dismissing a thing saying, ‘No, I can’t do that because of this.’”
“There’s a lot of time somebody [on staff] will have a great idea and I may agree but I may take the contrary side . . just to test how committed they are . . and their thinking behind it . . and how well researched it is.”
“What if we’re doing something wrong and it’s hurting our kids? So I want it to be well thought out, I want it to be researched, I want it to be tested, I want it to be proven, I want there to be evidence of it.”
“I want us to play fast but only if we’re able to function.”
“You read all these things about the way the brain works, the teaching methods, it’s all . . brought together to make sure that your words speak in images.”
“It’s all very intentional . . because our time with our players is so very limited. We can’t waste any of those moments, any teachable moment. So we’ve got to be very intentional. We’ve got to be very specific.”
“The question always is, ‘How can you turn a last place team into a team that’s contending fast?’ . . It’s a bunch of incremental gains in small areas.”
“We try to cut practice . . by five minutes from the previous Monday . . The year that we went to the Final four, we were practicing 35 minutes a day at the end of March.”
“I decided to study about goals . . one of the first books I came across was Josh Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert’s book called ‘Burn Your Goals’ . . they really challenge you that goals can limit you.”
“I said, ‘We’re not going to use goals this year . . instead, we’re going to set some standards that you are willing to hold each other accountable for, ones that our coaching staff is willing to confront you with when you don’t meet . . we’re going to sit around until we come up with what we’re going to call evidence of excellence.”
“There’s not one scenario I’ve ever heard of where properly set standards could not have . . accomplished the exact same thing as a good set of goals . . and you don’t give yourself the chance to be limited.”
“It’s about getting us to the point to where our position and their play meet and intersect to the point that we bring value to each other.”
“The search for truth allows you to be trusted. It allows you to trust people and when you trust people, you don’t have to be perfect anymore.”
“We care about doing what we thing is the best thing we can do offensively as many times as we can do it and then try to do the exact opposite on defense.”
“You’ve got to have some tangible success to go with the believeability and the thinking; that’s what gives you credibility.”
“I love having constructive disagreements with people. There are lots of ways to win at this game and everybody that consistently does it . . it is theirs, it is their way.”
Selected Links from the Podcast:
1:00 – Playing with Set Fastbreak Positions
3:00 – Contrarian Thinker
5:00 – Example of one of his Why’s
9:30 – Marketing
12:00 – Colorful Words
15:00 – Live Ball Coaching
19:30 – Practice
22:00 – Workload Management
26:00 – Setting Team Goals
35:00 – Call Me Coach
38:00 – Power
42:30 – Rewarding Effort over Success
47:30 – Organization and Rankings
53:00 – Talking about Defense
56:00 – Full Court Pressure but Packline in Half-Court
1:00:00 – Shoot-Around
1:05:00 – Analytics
1:07:00 – Conclusion
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