|Canadian Football League legend Wally Buono capped a storybook ending to his coaching career today when he was named Coach of the Year for 2011.
“It’s fitting that as we prepare to celebrate the 100th Grey Cup, we bestow this honour on a true leader who has long epitomized what is best about our league,” said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, after presenting Buono with the prestigious Annis Stukus Trophy at luncheon in Toronto.
“Wally Buono’s resume as a head coach ensures he will be remembered alongside the legendary names in CFL history – and 2011 may have been the pinnacle of his storied career.”
Buono’s British Columbia Lions won the 99th Grey Cup game last November at BC Place in Vancouver, defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a score of 34-23.Not only did the win come on home soil, it completed a remarkable turnaround year for the Lions. Their 0-5 start to the season had some pundits questioning Buono’s coaching, despite the fact he had led teams to four previous Grey Cup victories , had won the league’s Coach of the Year award three times, and had won more regular season games than any other CFL coach in history.
The team responded by winning 11 of their remaining 13 regular season games, capturing first place in the Western Division and a berth in the Grey Cup, courtesy of a 40-23 Western Final victory over the Edmonton Eskimos.
“Wally often tells his players that life is seldom easy, and the greatest rewards are those you have to overcome adversity to achieve,” Cohon said. “The Lions’ success is 2011 is a testament to his philosophy, character and leadership.”
During this off-season, Buono announced his retirement from coaching, although he remains the Lions’ General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations.
He received 45 first place votes in the Coach of the Year balloting conducted among 56 voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada, including journalists in every CFL market as well as a national chapter.
The other nominees for the award – Paul LaPolice of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Kavis Reed of the Edmonton Eskimos – are part of the breed of new young coaches in the CFL.
Both completed turnaround seasons of their own. LaPolice’s Bombers captured first place in the Eastern Division, and a berth in the Grey Cup, after winning just four games the previous season. In his first year as the head coach in Edmonton, Reed led his team to a 11 –7 record, and a berth in the Western Final, one year after the Eskimos failed to make the playoffs.
Here’s a quick look at Wally Buono’s coaching career, by the numbers:
• Grey Cup victories: Five (1992, 1998, and 2001 with Calgary Stampeders and 2006 and 2011 with B.C. Lions – tied for most all-time with Don Matthews, Hugh Campbell, and Frank Clair)
• Grey Cup games coached: 9 (tied for most all-time with Don Matthews)
• Coach of the Year: 1992, 1993 (Calgary Stampeders), 2006 and 2011 (BC Lions)
• Regular season victories: 254 (the most in CFL history -- Don Matthews has 231, Frank Clair 147, Ron Lancaster 142, Eagle Keys 131 Ray Jauch 127, Dave Ritchie 108, Bob O’Billovich 107, Bud Grant 102, Cal Murphy 99.)
• Became CFL head coach with the most regular season wins on September 19, 2009 with 23-17 win over Toronto, giving him 232 wins
• Lifetime regular season record: 254 wins, 139 losses and 3 ties
• Lifetime regular season winning percentage: .645 (first among coaches with 100 or more games, and sixth all-time).
• Playoff wins:17 (second to only Frank Clair, who had 22)
• Lifetime playoff record: 17-12
• Years coaching: 22 (1990-2011)
• Years in the playoffs: 21 (most all-time, ahead of Don Matthews 18 and Frank Clair 17)
• Playoff games coached: 29 (second only to Frank Clair’s 40)
|WALLY BUONO - B.C. LIONS
It’s been touted as one of the greatest coaching performances of his long career. In a year that the BC Lions were hosting the Grey Cup in their own backyard, Wally Buono and his team were coming off a disappointing year in which they finished the 2010 regular season with an 8-10 record.
With high hopes for the 2011 season, the Lions came out of the gate losing five straight games and six of their first seven. Led by Buono, the Lions turned their season around, winning 10 of their last 11 games and claiming first place in the West Division with an 11-7 record.
They went on to defeat the Edmonton Eskimos in the Western Final and then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 99th Grey Cup.
It was Buono’s fifth Grey Cup championship as head coach, and most likely his last as the winningest head coach in CFL history announced after the season that he would be stepping away from the sidelines. Buono remains with the Lions as General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations.
Buono has been named CFL Coach of the Year three times in his career (1992, 1993 and 2006).
|PAUL LAPOLICE - WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
|In just his second year as head coach, Paul LaPolice led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup, after orchestrating one of the biggest turnarounds in CFL history.
LaPolice took a team that finished 4-14 the year before and led them to a 10-8 record, first-place in the East Division for the first time since 2001 and an East Division Championship and Grey Cup berth for the first time since 2007.
The 2011 Blue Bombers were known for their defensive prowess, leading the league in many defensive categories including fewest yards allowed per game and quarterback sacks.
This was Coach LaPolice’s first nomination for the Annis Stukus Trophy.
|KAVIS REED - EDMONTON ESKIMOS
|After finishing the 2010 season in last place in the West Division with a 7-11 record, Kavis Reed was brought in as head coach to turn around the Edmonton Eskimos. And he did just that.
In his first season as a CFL head coach, Reed led the Eskimos to an 11-7 record and second place in the West Division. The Eskimos hosted their first playoff game since 2004 and defeated the Calgary Stampeders 33-19 for a berth in the Western Final.
This was Coach Reed’s first nomination for the Annis Stukus Trophy.
The Annis Stukus Trophy has recognized excellence in coaching since 1961 when Hamilton’s Jim Trimble first won the award.
The annual CFL Coach of the Year Dinner was hosted for 40 years by the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club. The Eskimos Alumni Association presented a trophy in honour of the Eskimos first coach, the legendary Annis Stukus. Winners are selected by Members of The Football Reporters of Canada.
As a player with the Toronto Argonauts from 1935 to 1941, Stukus, along with brothers Bill and Frank, helped the Boatmen to Grey Cup victories in 1937 and 1938. Stukus enjoyed a successful 12-year playing career excelling at six different positions, including quarterback.
Making the transition to coaching, Stukus was hired to lead the Edmonton Eskimos as their first coach and general manager in 1949 and even performed place kicking duties for the club. In 1953, Annis moved west to Vancouver to become the first head coach of the B.C. Lions, a job he would hold until 1956.
He is a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and in 1974 was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a builder. Stukus passed away in May, 2006 at the age of 91 at his home in Canmore, Alberta.
|2011 -- Wally Buono, B.C.
2010 -- Jim Barker, Toronto
2009 -- Marc Trestman, Montreal
2008 -- John Hufnagel, Calgary
2007 -- Kent Austin, Saskatchewan
2006 -- Wally Buono, B.C.
2005 -- Tom Higgins, Calgary
2004 -- Greg Marshall, Hamilton
2003 -- Tom Higgins, Edmonton
2002 -- Don Matthews, Montreal
2001 -- Dave Ritchie, Winnipeg
2000 -- Charlie Taaffe, Montreal
1999 -- Charlie Taaffe, Montreal
1998 -- Ron Lancaster, Hamilton
1997 -- Don Matthews, Toronto
1996 -- Ron Lancaster, Edmonton
1995 -- Don Matthews, Baltimore
1994 -- Don Matthews, Baltimore
1993 -- Wally Buono, Calgary
1992 -- Wally Buono, Calgary
1991 -- Adam Rita, Toronto
|1990 -- Mike Riley, Winnipeg
1989 -- John Gregory, Saskatchewan
1988 -- Mike Riley, Winnipeg
1987 -- Bob O’Billovich, Toronto
1986 -- Al Bruno, Hamilton
1985 -- Don Matthews, B.C.
1984 -- Cal Murphy, Winnipeg
1983 -- Cal Murphy, Winnipeg
1982 -- Bob O’Billovich, Toronto
1981 -- Joe Faragalli, Saskatchewan
1980 -- Ray Jauch, Winnipeg
1979 -- Hugh Campbell, Edmonton
1978 -- Jack Gotta, Calgary
1977 -- Vic Rapp, B.C.
1976 -- Bob Shaw, Hamilton
1975 -- George Brancato, Ottawa
1974 -- Marv Levy, Montreal
1973 -- Jack Gotta, Ottawa
1972 -- Jack Gotta, Ottawa
1971 -- Leo Cahill, Toronto
|1970 -- Ray Jauch, Edmonton
1969 -- Frank Clair, Ottawa
1968 -- Eagle Keys, Saskatchewan
1967 -- Jerry Williams, Calgary
1966 -- Frank Clair, Ottawa
1965 -- Bud Grant, Winnipeg
1964 -- Ralph Sazio, Hamilton
1963 -- Dave Skrien, B.C.
1962 -- Steve Owen, Saskatchewan
1961 -- Jim Trimble, Hamilton