Leg­endary coach Buono makes CFL exit with tough play­off loss

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - NEIL DAVID­SON

HAMIL­TON — Smart­ing from a lop­sided 48-8 play­off loss, Wally Buono found one pos­i­tive as he left the field for the last time Sun­day.

“The one thing I did think about as I was walk­ing off the field (was) I wouldn’t have to have this feel­ing again,” said the B.C. Lions coach. “(Losses) are last­ing and they are bru­tal.”

How long Sun­day’s Eastern semi­fi­nal beat­down by the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats lingers re­mains to be seen for the 68-year-old Buono, who is re­tir­ing af­ter 46 years as a player, coach and gen­eral man­ager in the Cana­dian Foot­ball League.

“That’s a good ques­tion, be­cause they usu­ally stay a long time,” Buono said. “I’ve al­ways be­lieved that if you end the sea­son on a loss, it’s a long time be­fore the next sea­son. I guess the one thing I will say is I don’t have to worry about the next sea­son, so maybe it won’t last as long.”

A good thing, per­haps. The 40-point mar­gin of vic­tory for Hamil­ton was the largest in

Lions play­off an­nals, eras­ing the 38 points of a 56-18 loss to Mon­treal in 2009.

The CFL’s win­ningest coach said his plan was to go home, “get things wrapped up and start a new life.”

“I’ve been do­ing this for a lot of years. A lot of peo­ple have had the op­por­tu­nity to re­tire. I’ve talked to a num­ber of them and most of them are do­ing OK.

So I fig­ure I’m not that much dif­fer­ent and hope­fully re­tire­ment will be OK.”

Loss No. 183 — to go with 305 coach­ing wins and three ties in reg­u­lar-sea­son and play­off ac­tion — was a hor­ror show.

Fum­bles, missed in­ter­cep­tions, a pick-six, failed third-down gam­bles — the Lions were on the wrong end of ev­ery­thing Sun­day.

Hamil­ton scored on three of its first four pos­ses­sions and led 28-0 at the half. It was 44-0 af­ter three quar­ters.

Buono’s seven Grey Cup rings — two won as a player and five as a coach — might pro­vide some so­lace when he gets home.

But he found some words of wis­dom for his play­ers af­ter Sun­day’s loss.

“The thing that I shared with the guys is this is not what we came here for, this is not what we wanted but it’s been a plea­sure work­ing with these guys. It’s been a plea­sure coach­ing the guys.”

For Lions quar­ter­back Travis Lu­lay, Sun­day’s re­sult was “just an un­for­tu­nate end to an in­cred­i­ble ca­reer.”

“To­day ob­vi­ously doesn’t de­fine the man . ... Ev­ery­thing that Wally’s earned and all the ac­co­lades he’s won over his ca­reer and all the credit he gets for the work that he’s done, he’s de­serv­ing of it all.”

Line­backer Solomon Elim­imian wanted to do more for his coach.

“For the guys who have been around, we know how much he’s meant to us and per­son­ally how much he’s meant to my ca­reer,” he said. “One thing that we wanted to give him, we couldn’t tonight.”

Like his coach, Elim­imian tried to put the game in per­spec­tive.

“It’s life and life is un­fair. And foot­ball is a mi­cro­cosm of life and it is un­fair,” he said. “Some­times you put in the hard work, some­times you make sac­ri­fices and it just didn’t add up.

“But you have to pick your­self up and keep push­ing.”

Buono has ruled out a re­turn to man­age­ment, rea­son­ing that if he did it would have to be with an­other or­ga­ni­za­tion — “and I’m not sure I have the en­ergy or the will at this point to do all that . ... Some­times it’s good for us to just move on.”

Buono ex­its with a glit­ter­ing re­sume. In­ducted into the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame in 2014, Buono was awarded the Or­der of Canada in 2015.

PETER POWER THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono re­tires as the win­ningest coach in CFL his­tory. Buono won five Grey Cups as a coach, two as a player and was in­ducted into the Cana­dian Foot­ball Hall of Fame in 2014.

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