The B.C. Lions will be adding legendary CFL head coach Wally Buono to the club’s Wall of Fame.
Buono was hired by the Lions as head coach and general manager in 2003, after spending the previous 13 seasons in charge of the Calgary Stampeders. He led the team back to the playoffs in his first season at the helm and helped the Lions finish first in the West Division in each of the next four years, highlighted by a Grey Cup victory in 2006. In 2011, he captured a second championship at home in BC Place after turning around the team following a 0-5 start.
The legendary coach stepped down as the team’s bench boss following that season, focusing on his general manager duties for the next four years. He returned to the sidelines in 2016 and served for three more seasons before retiring in 2018.
Buono surpassed Don Matthews as the CFL’s all-time leader in coaching victories in 2009, retiring with a record 282 wins, 129 of which came with the Lions. He also holds the record for most games coached at 450 and is tied with Matthews, Hugh Campbell, Lew Hayman and Frank Clair for most all-time Grey Cup wins amongst head coaches with five. He was enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
The Lions’ playoff streak extended to 21 seasons (1997-2017) during his tenure and he is the only coach in franchise history to win two Grey Cups. Buono will be added to the Wall of Fame as part of Legends Night on August 12 when B.C. hosts his former team, the Calgary Stampeders.
“I am forever thankful to David Braley and Bob Ackles for believing in me and giving me a great opportunity with the BC Lions,” Buono said in a statement.
“Being recognized is always about the people around you. I was blessed with great ownership, great staff and many, many great players in my 16 seasons with the club. The fan support was also a great difference maker, especially at BC Place.”
Joining Buono on the Wall of Fame will be the founders of ‘The Waterboys,’ a group of British Columbia business leaders assembled by club president Bob Ackles in 2002 to build the Lions’ brand in the corporate community.
Founding members Dennis Skulsky, Moray Keith, Jamie Pitblado and Tom Malone helped grow the group to include over 120 business leaders before the end of the decade. They were integral to the two Grey Cup festivals hosted in Vancouver in 2005 and 2011, winning the CFL’s Commissioner’s Award in 2005 for their dedication and significant contribution to Canadian football.
“This is a special honour and it’s really about more people than just us founders of The Waterboys,” the former Lions’ president Skulsky said in a statement.
“We were so fortunate to have Bob Ackles as our inspirational leader along with the support of owner David Braley and exceptional long-time club leaders like George Chayka and a tremendously dedicated Lions staff. Our sincere thanks to Amar Doman, Duane Vienneau, and the entire Wall of Fame committee for selecting us.”