After Washington head coach Mike Hopkins finished answering questions about the Huskies’ 66-63 victory over San Diego on Tuesday, he was asked about the eventful trip home from Friday’s loss against Auburn.
Hopkins immediately launched into an animated story, relaying the details of the Huskies’ night after their bus caught on fire outside of Montgomery, Ala. UW was on its way to board a charter flight home.
At first, Hopkins said, the players heard a thump sound coming from the back of the bus and insisted there was a flat tire. After a few minutes, the bus driver pulled over and went to investigate.
What he found was something else entirely.
“He comes back and he goes, ‘Oh my God! The bus is on fire!’” Hopkins said. “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 … 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.’”
The team moved to the side of the road and down into a ravine. Here, Hopkins hopped out of his seat, recreating what happened when he stepped off the pavement.
“I don’t even know what it was,” Hopkins said. “It was like swamp water.”
When the Huskies looked back toward the bus, the entire back of the vehicle was on fire. And not like a little flame, Hopkins stressed. Real fire.
“The bus driver keeps going back-and-forth,” Hopkins said. “Now, we didn’t know. 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 you 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 was about 40 degrees. It was an experience. I call them brain tattoos. I’ll have that brain tattoo for the rest of my life.”
The team waited on the side of the road until another bus arrived about two hours later at 1:30 a.m. Hopkins said the players passed the time by playing music and singing along.
“Kind of a weird way to have some team bonding through adversity,” he said.
When Hopkins got his jacket back, it smelled like smoke. Other than that, UW returned home later than expected, but safe.
“Everybody was OK and survived,” he said. “There were a couple of computers that were burnt and there were some other things, but for the most part we all survived.”