Buono stays with B.C. Lions
Wally Buono needed time to step back before deciding he was the right coach to move the B.C. Lions forward.
Buono knew the talent on the CFL team that rebounded from a horrible 1-7 start to finish the season in the playoffs at 8-10. He also understood the importance of the 2011 season when the Grey Cup will be played at a refurbished B.C. Place Stadium.
The more he thought about it, Buono believed he still had the emotion and knowledge to stay on the sidelines and make a difference with the Lions. That helped him decide to remain as coach and general manager for at least one more year.
"I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with who I am," Buono told a news conference Tuesday. "Today, coaching is something I still want to do. Coaching is something I want to be successful at.
"Did I have the passion? That's something I wanted to make sure. The emotion of the game is tough. Win or lose, it's always tough."
Buono spent last week meeting with team owner David Braley and Dennis Skulsky, the Lions' president and chief executive officer. He also discussed his future with his wife and family.
"I believe for our organization, for our players and coaches, and for myself, this is the best decision for 2011," Buono said. "I'm excited about the opportunity."
In 21 seasons, Buono has 243 regular-season victories, more than any other CFL coach. But after back-to-back 8-10 campaigns, questions arose as to whether the 60-year-old had lost his touch. Critics wondered about his ability to pick talent and relate to the new generation of players.
"Football coaches don't lose their knowledge," said Buono. "With football coaches you lose how to reach your players."
One of the things Buono is most proud of this season is that the coaching staff never lost the team, the locker-room remained united and the players didn't give up on themselves.
It wasn't always easy.
"I realized how I approached the team has a very strong influence on how they act," he said. "At times I wanted to be a lot more demonstrative, or a lot more forceful.
"At the end of it, that wasn't the right approach with these guys. The right approach was to build them up, to continually reinforce that we had confidence in them."
Buono showed patience with the players. He resisted pressure to fire offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine. He also continued to receive Braley's backing.
In October, Buono released veteran quarterback Casey Printers and handed the team over to Travis Lulay, a 27-year-old from Salem, Ore.
The Lions responded by going 7-3 down the stretch, with two of those losses in overtime. The team took third place in the West, then suffered a heartbreaking 41-38 overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal.
When the season ended, Buono wanted a couple of weeks to decide his future. Under contract to early 2013, he had the option of leaving the sidelines but remaining as general manager.
Buono felt moving upstairs sent the wrong message after the team and assistant coaches stuck with him through a turbulent year.
"If I wanted to take the easy way I could step aside and be the GM," said Buono. "But could I face myself every day when I came to work? Could I face the players and coaches because I really bailed on them?
"I couldn't do that. I felt I owed the loyalty back to the organization and the players and the coaching staff on how they handled their own adversity."