This article was first published in the September 25th edition of Main Street Week - page 7, and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by www.mainstreetweeknews.com to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday
Congratulazioni Wally Buono!
With almost one hundred years of history in the books, the Canadian Football League has provided fans with many magical moments, legends and icons. Over twenty-seven thousand fans at BC Place witnessed history on Saturday, September 19th, as the BC Lions defeated the Toronto Argonauts 23-17 in Vancouver. Lions head coach Wally Buono established a new mark for career coaching victories, surpassing another legend, The Don, Don Mathews. In his twentieth season as a Head Coach in the CFL, Buono’s career coaching record now stands at 232 wins, 118 losses and 3 ties.
Born in Potenza Italy in 1950, Buono and his family arrived in Montreal in 1953 and that is where the future coaching legend discovered his love of the game. After playing at Idaho State University, he returned to Montreal to play as a linebacker and punter for the Alouettes, appearing in 152 games during his ten seasons with Montreal, winning the Grey Cup in 1974 and 1977. When he retired from playing in the league, Buono joined the coaching ranks as an assistant with the Montreal Concordes and eventually moved to Calgary as an assistant in 1987.
Promoted to Head Coach of the Calgary Stampeders in 1990, the history books began to record the accomplishments of Buono and his teams. His Stampeders won their division eight times in his thirteen years at the helm and they appeared in six Grey Cup games, winning the Grey Cup in 1992, 1998 and 2001. During his time in Calgary, Buono illustrated his ability to discover talented players and developed some of the greatest quarterbacks in the league’s modern history. Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia both went on to star in the National Football League after winning the Grey Cup in Calgary with Buono. Dave Dickenson, another Calgary player and CFL all-star, would later join Buono in BC where the head coach groomed another talented QB, Casey Printers.
In 2003, Buono became the Head Coach and General Manager of the BC Lions and was a crucial factor in the resurgence of the Lions on the Vancouver sports scene. With Dickenson and Printers, the Lions lost the Grey Cup in 2004 but in the third year of four consecutive division titles in 2006, Buono was once again raising the Grey Cup in victory; defeating the Alouettes by a score of 25-14. It was the fifth Grey Cup in franchise history and fourth for Buono as a Head Coach. In his career, Buono has also earned the Coach of the Year title three times, 1992, 1998 and again in 2001.
The 59-year-old coach is also very active in the community, helping to raise awareness as a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and he is involved in Operation Christmas Child; bringing gifts to children in impoverished nations.
After a 1-4 start to the season, Buono and his Lions are finding their form and have improved their win/loss record to 5-6. Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan sit atop the Western Division with identical 6-5 records and the race for playoff positions is heating up as the season heads into the home stretch. As Toronto and Winnipeg flounder in the Eastern Division, there is a real possibility the Lions will crossover in the playoffs to take on the Eastern teams. With this year’s Grey Cup taking place in Calgary on November 29th, it would be another magical moment if Buono’s ninth trip to the Grey Cup brought him through Montreal. Have a great sports day everyone.