The last thing Nuggets coach Michael Malone did before taking a plow from behind by a 4,500-pound truck was curse.
“It’s rush hour. Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, So I come to a stop, look up to check the rearview mirror. And I see this frickin’ blue-and-white old Ford pickup truck, barreling down on me,” Malone said.
“The guy never hit his brakes. I have just enough time to say: ‘Bleep!’ And then … boom!”
On the next to last day of summer, exactly one week before Malone opened training camp as coach of the Nuggets for the eighth time, he walked out of Ball Arena and hopped in his Chevy Silverado, with assistant Ryan “Ry-Bo” Bowen riding shotgun. They headed south down the highway so both coaches could be home in time for dinner.
Checking a traffic app on his cellphone, Bowen directed Malone to take the off-ramp from Interstate 25 to Santa Fe Boulevard, where they quickly came to an abrupt stop.
“Next thing I know, I hear Coach yelling, ‘Ry-Bo, bleep!’ Then I glance over to the passenger side mirror. Oh my god,” Bowen recalled. “The guy plowed into us; we rammed into the car in front of us. It all happened so quick. It was like a NASCAR pile-up.”
“Sometimes, I think about buying a nice sedan. But I’m sitting in bed the night of the accident and realize: ‘Thank God I was in that big pick-up truck, with all that steel wrapped around me to absorb the crash,” said Malone, showing me a photo of his Silverado, which looks as if stick of dynamite exploded in its tailpipe, resulting in more than $20,000 in damage.
Malone and Bowen watched the man bolt from his wrecked blue Ford, carrying a small dog like a football in the crook of his arm. Man and dog quickly approached the innocent driver of the vehicle that took the brunt of the bumper-car impact from Malone’s truck and implored a startled stranger: “Hey, buddy. We’ve gotta get out of here. Can you give me a lift?”
Bowen couldn’t believe what happened next. “Next thing I know,” Bowen said, “this guy is running 100 yards down the highway, with a dog under his arm, hops the guardrail and is gone.”
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