Neighbors, Deifel among Arkansas coaches excited to welcome Calipari to Fayetteville

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-04-11 14:40 PM


FAYETTEVILLE – Count Arkansas women’s head basketball coach Mike Neighbors and Razorback softball head coach Courtney Deifel among those excited to welcome John Calipari to campus.

Both were on hand Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena when former Kentucky hoops coach Calipari was formally introduced as 14th Razorback hoops boss in the program’s history.

“First of all, I was there was much as a Razorback fan as I was anything,” notes Neighbors, who grew up an Arkansas fan in Greenwood. “You know me, being around it for 55 years so to be sitting over there in the head coaching section that he pointed to was kind of numbing.”

Neighbors, who is currently recruiting ahead of the opening next Wednesday of the month-long late signing period, has only heard positive things about Calipari.

“Anytime somebody takes a job at your campus, you get a lot of texts from people that have been on staffs with him and around him and very rare – well never – in my past has it been 100 percent positive,” Neighbors said.

“But this has been 100 percent positive, which blows me away. Nobody texting me anything negative. It was all positive.

“And then he overdelivered when I met him. You’ve got this build up and this idea in your head of what it will be like and then you meet him, his wife (Elaine) and his son (Brad) and they just blew me away. It is easy to see why he is revered the way he is.”

Deifel, whose 14th-ranked Razorbacks (28-10, 7-5) travel to play a three-game series at No. 23 South Carolina (28-13, 4-8) beginning Friday at 5 p.m. CST, is hyped about the excitement the hiring of Calipari has brought to Arkansas.

“I thought it was awesome,” Deifel said of the press conference. “It was fun and a lot of my favorite people all in one spot. You get to kind of see everybody and it was just a really exciting day for Razorback athletics.

“…I got to take Trip, my oldest that is an eight-year-old, and so in the midst of catching up with every one and seeing everyone, I hadn’t taken in the moment to just look around and soak in all in.

“I think I looked back to talk to Coach Neighbors or someone and that’s when I really looked at the stands and how full they were.

There was an estimated 7,000 fans on hand.

“It was just awesome and an incredible welcome for him and a really exciting day for Razorback athletics and really cool to be a part of, but I am just happy he has chosen to join our crew here,” Deifel said. “We have a really awesome crew of coaches.

“…I think that was the first thing – who are we going to get? Because we have a really great group of coaches and then sitting there and listening to him and just kind of hearing, not the kind of coach he is, but the kind of guy he is, I am excited about how he is joining our department and our Razorback family.”

No doubt Arkansas will look to have Calipari throw out the ceremonial first pitch at both baseball’s Baum-Walker Stadium and softball’s Bogle Park in the future.

But Deifel knows Calipari is a little busy at the moment considering he has to recruit an almost entire new roster.

“I don’t know if you have noticed, but he has quite a bit of recruiting to do so I do think that has to be a priority,” Deifel said. “But hopefully we can get him out here soon.

“I think he leaves today I think to get a big award in (Las) Vegas or something and then I would imagine he will hit the recruiting trail very hard.”

Photo by John D. James

(Last updated: 2024-04-11 14:40 PM)