Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Before they were coaches: Mike Neighbors and Todd Schaefer
Arkansas women's basketball coach Mike Neighbors and associate head coach Todd Schaefer are pictured on November 8, 2019 during the Razorbacks' 82-52 victory over New Orleans.
FAYETTEVILLE — Greg Stanfill entered the gym at Greenwood High School in search of some extra hands.
A young branch manager at a local bank in the late 1980s, Stanfill approached then-Bulldogs basketball coach HB Stewart in his office one afternoon before practice began.
He was looking for a trustworthy teenager with flexible hours who could clean his bank a couple of times during the workweek. The building also needed a thorough cleaning on the weekend.
“Well, I’ve got a team full of those kids,” Stewart told Stanfill at the time. “How about we go out and the first kid on the gym floor gets the job?”
Enter Mike Neighbors, now the third-year Arkansas women’s basketball coach. Because Neighbors served as a coach’s aid the previous period, he was already shooting on one of the baskets after arriving at the gym early that day.
He soon had his first job, one he would work his entire junior and senior years of high school. It paid $50 per week.
“I emptied trash bags, cleaned toilets, swept the drive-through and refilled the sucker drawers,” Neighbors told WholeHogSports. “You never forget those first (jobs), that’s for sure.
“Those are those experiences that so many kids these days don’t have. There are lots of memories on that.”
The things Neighbors learned while on that job have stuck with him through the years. He will still reach down and pick up trash from the floors in Bud Walton Arena and Basketball Performance Center.
It is a reflex from his early years, he says. Neighbors, too, still runs into Stanfill in Greenwood on occasion.
“He pats me on the back and says, ‘I think you’ve got a little bit better job than the first one I gave you,’” Neighbors said.
Arkansas women’s basketball associate head coach Todd Schaefer’s first job, similar in a way to his current position with Mike Neighbors and the Razorbacks, involved a lot of running and hustling.
Schaefer, though, is a runner, so he didn’t mind that part of his work responsibilities growing up in Cincinnati. His first job, aside from helping his father clean the restaurant the family owned, was with a valet company.
Schaefer, who was on the football team at Thomas More College in northern Kentucky, was made aware of the gig thanks to a running back in his freshman class who mentioned that he made good money as a valet. He was all in.
“If you had had Apple watches back then, there’s no telling how much running we did, because some of those lots were a quarter-mile, half-mile away from the booth,” Schaefer told WholeHogSports. “You’re parking and you’re running, you’re going to fetch cars.
“Cincinnati is hot in the summer. It is hot and humid in the summer. … We would work Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We would play a home football game on a Saturday, and say we played an afternoon game, we would go valet that night. We worked Sunday afternoon sometimes for kind of a lunch crowd.”
The busiest hours of Schaefer’s day would be roughly 5-8 p.m., then came a lot of sitting around until midnight. In that downtime, Schaefer’s crew would do its best to find the Reds game on a small TV.
After midnight, it was back to work bringing cars to the various restaurants and bars. Schaefer earned approximately 50 cents per car plus tips from the car’s owner once it was returned, he said.
“We’d get Reds that came in, Bengals and they’d slide you some extra money to quote-unquote take care of their car,” he added. “You get those guys and then you’d get everywhere in-between. The characters that you run into and you work with and the shenanigans that go on in a valet service, you think about it and you just crack up laughing at the things you can remember from those days.
“You were on the hustle to earn as much money as you could. Some of those intangible things that you learn as a young person, you don’t even realize you’re learning them at the time. That was your life every night.”
One story in particular from the job will never escape Schaefer. Bachelor and bachelorette parties were not uncommon in the area he worked. One night, 3-4 girls walked up crying after being separated from their group. They all wanted to go home.
Home for them was Indianapolis, about a two-hour drive from Cincinnati. Schaefer's trip began at 1 a.m. and he returned after 5 a.m.
“I remember they paid me $350 to take them home,” Schaefer said. “For a college kid? It was going to cost me like $50 in gas or whatever it was. I drove them late at night and dropped them off at their house and came home.
“You’d do anything for money back in those days. You were going to get what you earned and nothing more. That was certainly influential both financial and otherwise.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.