Maybe there will be announcement Sunday night, should the B.C. Lions win. More likely, it will come in the days following the Grey Cup when Lions general manager/head coach Wally Buono reflects on what he’s already decided.
At Wednesday’s coaches’ conference, sitting next to Winnipeg Blue Bombers counterpart Paul LaPolice, Buono was asked about his future plans and whether Sunday’s game will be his last as a CFL head coach.
For the record, Buono has been asked several times this season if this was going to be his last go-round as the league’s most successful coach. He has said little, but Wednesday it sounded as if he has a plan to surrender the head coaching duties next season (possibly to defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides) yet stay on as GM.
“Today, I’m coaching. After Sunday, I’ll sit down and resolve it,” Buono explained. “That’s the agreement [Lions owner David]Braley and I have. I’m going to stick to my part of the agreement and when I committed to signing for three years, I told David I would be committed to that contract, not necessarily in two roles. So winning or losing is not going to have any affect at all.”
At that point, LaPolice said to Buono: “If you do, we may have a job for you in Winnipeg in next year, in a lesser role on defence.”
“I’d like that,” Buono joked. “I hate offence.”
At 61, Buono has won four Grey Cups as a head coach (three with the Calgary Stampeders, one with the Lions). A fifth Cup win would not only ensure his status as the game’s finest coach, it would allow him to hand his successor a good team with a chance at winning more titles.
As for this season, Buono acknowledged seeing the Lions rebound from a 1-6 start and win the West Division was especially satisfying since it took a concerted effort from the players and coaching staff alike to make it happen.
He also said he was “very fortunate” to have not been fired during the team’s early flop. “I don’t believe anyone else in my position would have been here in 2011. … By the grace of God, I was spared that because of the [career]wins behind my name.”
As to why the Lions performed so poorly from July into August, Buono summed it up this way: “We had a lot of good football players who were playing bad football. That happens sometimes. And as a coach, guys, believe me, we told them to catch the football. Yes, we the told them to tackle better. Yes, we told them not to throw into double coverage. … Sometimes, people think you haven’t told them. Like all you have to do is tell them and they’ll do it. I hate to say it, that’s not true.”
LaPolice is a Grey Cup rookie head coach, but worked the 2009 Cup as the Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive co-ordinator. The Riders lost that game to the Montreal Alouettes after being penalized for too many men on the field.