Mike Hopkins says a fire on a team bus turned into a "weird" team bonding for the Huskies who sang songs and listened to music while stranded on the side of an Alabama highway in the middle of the night for two hours in 40-degree weather.
At the end of Monday’s postgame news conference after a 66-63 win over San Diego, Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins gave a detailed account of the bus fire on Friday night that interrupted the Huskies’ trip home from Auburn.
Turns out the worst part of Washington’s trip wasn’t an embarrassing 88-66 lost to No. 9 Auburn.
Hopkins is an animated and entertaining storyteller who delivered an amusing description of a night that he’ll never forget.
“I’m sitting in the front seat and again, what we just went through, we didn’t play our best,” Hopkins said. “It was just one of those games. And we’re driving to the airport. And you start hearing the ‘thump thump’ in the back. And the guys are like, ‘I think there’s a flat.’ Bump. Bump.
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“And we’re probably doing that for like 2-3 minutes. He (bus driver) pulls over to the side. He opens it up and says ‘I think we got an inside flat tire in the back.’ And he walks out. And he comes back and he goes ‘Oh my God! The bus is on fire!’
“And he grabs the fire extinguisher and I’m not going to use the exact words that I used, but I’m like ‘Get your stuff and get the ___ out of the bus!’ We’re going out and we’re walking out. It’s like, get out. Get out. Get out. Leave your stuff. Just …
“On the side (of the road), there’s a little side road and there’s like a ravine on a hill. … I’m walking. And we’re like ‘Get out of the bus!’ And I go, and I step down in like, I don’t even know what it was. It was like swamp water.
“You’re getting out. And the guys are getting out. The guys are getting out. At the time when you’re watching it the whole back is like burning. There’s fire. Not like a little flame. There’s fire. And everybody gets out OK.
“The the bus driving keeps going back and forth. Now we didn’t know. I’m screaming ‘Get out of the bus!’ I’m screaming ‘Get out of the bus!’ And he’s going to get his things. What I didn’t know — the education part of this is, the gas tank is in the front of the bus. Where would you think it would be? In the back. So we’re like, this thing is going to blow the way it was going. So we’re trying to get away.
“It’s about 40 degrees. It was an experience. I call them brain tattoos. I’ll have that brain tattoo for the rest of my life. But everybody got out safe. Guys were singing songs. They had the boom box out. Kind of a weird way to have some team bonding through some adversity.”
Hopkins then re-enacted his call to 911.
911: Can you report your emergency?
Hopkins: Our bus is on fire!
911: Where are you?
Hopkins: I don’t know!
911: What do you mean you don’t know?
Hopkins: I don’t know. We just played a game in Auburn. I think we’re in Montgomery. I don’t know where I’m at. It’s midnight.
911: Calm down. Where are you?
Hopkins: Listen, I’m from Seattle. All of our bus party is from Seattle. I don’t know.
911: Are you going westbound or eastbound?
Hopkins: I don’t know.
Thankfully, the UW coach said, no one was hurt. And the Huskies (2-1) returned from the Deep South with a painful loss and a colorful story to tell their kids someday.
“It was an experience.,” Hopkins said. “It was an experience. I got my jacket back and it smelled like smoke. Listen, at the end of the day things happen. Everybody was OK and survived. There were a couple of computers that were burnt and there were some other things, but for the most part we all survived.”