VANCOUVER — Last season was a rare stain on his resume, but not enough for Wally Buono's overarching accomplishments as head coach, general manager and face of the B.C. Lions franchise to affect owner David Braley's high regard for him.
Indeed, two days after the Lions were trounced 56-18 by the Montreal Alouettes in the 2009 East Division final, Braley wholeheartedly endorsed the Canadian Football League's winningest coach by saying the job is his as long as Buono wants it.
"He's a permanent employee of the B.C. Lions," Braley said.
Backing up those words emphatically, the Lions announced that Braley has extended Buono's contract through to the end of the 2013 season. Buono was entering the final year of his current pact after joining the Lions as their head coach and general manager in 2003.
"I hire the best and let them do their jobs," Braley said. "And there's no question that Wally is the best there is in Canada. Last season, he had his ups and downs but consistently, year after year, he's been a tremendous success. He has 235 victories under his belt."
Braley wouldn't say if he expects his general manager to relinquish part of his dual portfolio and step down from his coaching role at some point before Jan. 31, 2014, when the contract ends. Buono will turn 64 a month later.
"He could come to me and say 'David, it's necessary to make a change,'" Braley said. "But as long as he's feeling good about it, he's the head coach. Wally's had that option (to relinquish coaching) over the past few years, and it holds true for the future. He sits down at the end of the season and rates himself. He could coach for all four years or just two or three from now. If he wants to come and see me, he can make the necessary adjustments."
Buono said the new deal has been in the works since the end of last season, one in which the Lions started 1-4 and finished 8-10, the first losing campaign of his seven with the Lions.
"I knew it was something I wanted to get resolved and David wanted to get resolved," Buono said. "It was just a matter of timing."
Did he get a raise?
"Mr. Braley has always paid me very well and taken good care of me," Buono acknowledged. "But if money was the sole object, I would have put myself on the open market. I'd rather be with an organization that appreciates and respects what we do."
The head coach says there is no succession plan, in light of speculation that the hiring of former Argonauts head coach Rich Stubler as defensive line coach could have a catalytic effect on the higher aspirations of defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides. Benevides is known as "Little Wally" for his long association and mentorship under Buono.
"In four years, a lot can happen, a lot can change," Buono says.
"Rich Stubler is overqualified for what we're asking him to do, but he's here to fill an immediate need. We're just going to worry about 2010 for now . . . and I'm very excited about 2010. Honestly, I'm more excited about coaching this team than I have been for a couple of years. Maybe it's because we were 8-10. It's given us a wake-up call. Everybody (on the coaching staff) is excited about getting us back to a team that people are afraid to play."
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