Buono to be ‘more reckless’ in final CFL season

A better team and a different disposition on the part of his owner might have changed his approach but because neither happened for the BC Lions last year they’re about to see Wally Buono coach as they’ve never seen him before.

In his final year as a CFL coach, get ready for Wally the gunslinger.

It was the Lions’ turn Wednesday to take part in a league-mandated preview conference call and like every year, Buono didn’t disappoint. He was asked if he’d try to coach differently as he is preparing for semi-retirement.

To those who think Buono-coached teams have been lacking adequate pressure packages defensively and aren’t creative enough with the ball, the answer could be a godsend from the godfather.

“I have been thinking about being a little more reckless,” he said. “You know how conservative I am, how I am about a lot of things… How about this: I’m going to adopt Don Matthews’ mindset a little about letting go a little bit; not being dumb but being more aggressive, courageous, because at the end of it the coaches surrounding me will give me the options to do that with confidence.”

To be sure, Buono hasn’t forgotten the number of times new offensive coordinator Jarious Jackson liked to air out his arm behind centre for the Lions, or how often new special teams coordinator Jeff Reinebold used to burn him on gadget plays.

“It’s not them, it’s me,” Buono continued. “This is my last year. I’m going to work harder at trying to win and if that means I got to take more risks, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen, they’re going to fire me?”

Let it be said quite simply, the man’s candor is going to be missed as much as his coaching acumen.

He suggested he’ll try to avoid becoming the story in his final season but based on the number of media questions already this week prefaced on his final minicamp or start of his last training camp for example, it won’t likely be successful.

And if last season would have unfolded differently, he’d be off bonding with his grandchildren already. Prior to the preview call, Buono reflected on what took place as the Lions missed the playoffs for the first time in two decades, and how a man who has had almost a complete say over every facet of the operation since 2003 seemingly has transitioned to become a co-operative leader alongside new general manager Ed Hervey.

Among Buono’s first conclusions: Perhaps he should have hired someone like Hervey in 2011 to run David Braley’s team after coaching the Lions to their last Grey Cup.

“I learned a lot in the last five years. If I wasn’t so tired and worn out in 2011, I should have coached and had another GM in 2012, but I didn’t,” said Buono, who last served solely as a coach in 1991 in Calgary. “I don’t want total control. It’s not a matter of it being taken away from me.”

Buono reaffirmed the fact if Braley had decided to sell the team, rather than maintain ownership in the face of unresolved litigation by Arland Bruce, he would have left last year, but pressed the owner about his sense of direction for the Lions.

“If David had sold Dec. 1, I was gone. If David and I couldn’t agree on the direction of the club, I was gone. David was very supporting,” said Buono.

“I didn’t walk away because David’s my boss but he’s also my friend, and when a friend asks you to help you don’t turn your back on him. I’ve put 15 years of my life into this and I hated us to see where we we’re at. I believe we’re in the process; when I’m leaving next year it will be in way better hands.”

Ask Buono if he might reconsider his decision if the Lions have a good 2018 season and a negative response is offered before a lowly questioner can finish his sentence. Buono will be around next season; he admitted he has a contract with Braley that goes into the 2019 season, though won’t talk specifics. He’ll do dinners on behalf of the club. He won’t do things like the draft.

And he’ll do it, he says, having experienced coaching as a risk-taker.

LIONS TALES: In an apparent effort to avoid a repeat of the scenario when he tried to get through training camp while rehabbing an injured shoulder, Travis Lulay will hold an open workout Friday, which the Lions hope will be the final hurdle following off-season knee surgery towards taking a training camp roster spot… Hervey said the signing this week of national linebacker Bo Lokombo does not mean the club is no longer interested in bringing back Micah Awe, whose NFL options were similarly derailed last week… The determination of receiver Kevin Elliott, who 3DownNation reported funded his own way to attend the club’s mini-camp/tryout prior to the draft, has paid off in the form of a signed contract. The club still has a handful of roster spots still available before camp opens May 20 in Kamloops… BC also Wednesday released veteran DB/ST Matt Bucknor, no surprise ever since fellow non-import Cauchy Muamba was signed earlier in the off-season

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
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Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (173 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

27 Comments on Buono to be ‘more reckless’ in final CFL season

  1. Mr Red // May 9, 2018 at 6:27 pm //

    The best of all time
    I remember when he was hired in Calgary in 1990 there was a lot of criticism. Many though Calgary should hire another assistant by the name of Tom Higgins. It was the insistence of GM Norm Kwong that it be Wally.
    We lost him to BC in 2003 in the darkness of nefarious owners. The day of the press conference, I knew BC would become dominant.

    • BC Dave // May 9, 2018 at 8:15 pm //

      I remember F-Troop well and I thank them for Wally.
      I also thought it was the turning of a page in the BC Lion history book.

  2. MR. Green // May 9, 2018 at 6:37 pm //

    Farewell tour for Wally. I’m sure he will get his due respect league wide.

  3. Michael Kulyk // May 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm //

    i think the cfl made a big mistake in NOT naming buono commish of the CFL
    he was the perfect choice, instead the CFL got ambroise

    • Mr Red // May 9, 2018 at 6:49 pm //

      Unfortunately, Wally is a little old and out of touch with the targeted demographic to be an effective commissioner.

  4. The fella has got to do something reckless, nobody comes to the games , a television viewers empty stadium shock

    • White Horse // May 9, 2018 at 8:45 pm //

      Stage…Walley is Walley. Anyone who thinks he will change his stripes is dreaming. The game has passed him…I have always been a big Walley fan.
      Aust La Vista babe!!!

  5. solara2000 // May 9, 2018 at 7:20 pm //

    It is going to be an interesting season for WB. A strong-minded coach with unquestionable credentials and equally demanding expectations of his staff and players, hopefully he can find the ability to enjoy his last season and achieve success consistent with his standards; if so winners all around.

    • BC Dave // May 9, 2018 at 8:18 pm //

      I have 3 wishes for Wally this year, and for Mr. Braley.
      1. to go 18-0 in the regular season to pad Wally’s win total.
      2. a packed house every game.
      3. a Grey Cup for both to go out on.

  6. Bleeding Green // May 9, 2018 at 7:45 pm //

    I have a big old Wally sized soft spot. Gonna find myself cheering for the Lions in his last year.

    • Paul Bomber // May 9, 2018 at 8:51 pm //

      With some similar caveats to Randy, I’ll quietly cheering for Wally.

  7. Agreed Bleeding Green, except, of course, when they play against my team. 🙂

  8. White Horse // May 9, 2018 at 8:49 pm //

    Walley, Hervie and the Lions…not a factor in 2018.
    Maybe they should trade Jennings for Collaros?

  9. Paul Bomber // May 9, 2018 at 8:55 pm //

    Unless Jennings refinds his groove, Lulay’s luck changes or someone else emerges, you may be right.

  10. Wally is a WINNER every which way you look at it. Has had sub par seasons but they were far and few between. A man of strong principles in many ways that all can look up to and try to achieve. Hope he goes out a Grey Cup Winner to end his wonderful career.

  11. Bleeding Green // May 9, 2018 at 10:27 pm //

    Jennings seems to be a bit streaky but he’s still young. I think he will be one of the good QBs for a long time. Hats off to Lulay too for accepting whatever roll he’s asked to take. He is the definition of classy. Always wished the Riders would have picked him up when he was demoted to backup a couple of yrs ago.

  12. Buono is the worst big game coach in pro football history. He’s the Kevin Glenn of CFL coaches – – puts up nice numbers in the regular season but in crunch time when the playoffs come around, he always seems to find a way to choke.

    • Ahhh….you’re like a breath of smoggy Toronto air.

      • Just call it as I see it, my friend.

        Buono’ Greatest Playoff Collapses would make for a thoroughly entertaining article. So many to choose from – – 1993? 1994? 1995? 1996? 2000? 2004? 2007? 2012?

    • Wideout // May 10, 2018 at 11:04 am //

      If I didn’t read the headline I would have sworn you were talking about Dickenson/Hufnagel.

      • Dickenson & Hufnagel usually wait until the Grey Cup before they choke.

        Buono prefers to collapse early and choke in the WDF.

  13. 51 is right Ive been saying the same thing for years, his teams collapsed a lot of the time when they were heavy favorites,

    • greenenvy? // May 10, 2018 at 12:15 pm //

      Most recently last year when they were on most experts list as a top contender for the Cup. After a smug Lions team got hammered in Regina, they never recovered & won only 2 more games. Personally I think one of the best moves Hervey made was bringing in Jarious Jackson who he got to watch in Edmonton. Wally likes his guys & promoting Khari Jones back to OC after Tedford left was a bad decision. Players questioned his decision making. Both Lulay & Jennings will benefit. The Lions still have issues but look better & I see them in the mix this year. They probably weren’t as good as their 12-6 record in 2016 but not as bad as their record last year. Jennings & Arcenaux were hurt all year. Jennings came back early after the annual Lulay injury.

      • BC Dave // May 10, 2018 at 9:25 pm //

        I saw Khari Jones as a HUGE problem this year. I also predicted the D-Line coach would be gone and should have predicted the same for the special teams coordinator. I feel Buono trusted his coaches but they let him down and he did not hold them accountable. As you know, I am reluctant to make predictions because the last thing I want is for people to think I too have crawled out of the basement after consuming 51 beers but at the same time, I chuckle when everyone picks us to be dead last. Love being the under dog so hope your teams al think the same way as some of you. I think it will be a dog fight in the West and in the end, little difference between first and last.

        • greenenvy? // May 10, 2018 at 10:25 pm //

          If Jennings returns to form, & I think he will, watch out. The Lions have a good set of receivers & Elliott can add to that. They already have Johnson & Sutton with Van now on board. Johnson is not talked about much but a very good RB. It’s starting to take shape. Hiring Hervey was a great thing because, as you say, Wally has a soft spot for them. This way Hervey made the call & Wally can concentrate on other things. I’m not writing them off.

  14. greenenvy? // May 10, 2018 at 10:39 am //

    So B(u)ono is bringing “The Edge” to Vancouver this year. Very confusing for me. Probably for U2, yes?

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