There is no time like the present they say. The BC Lions appear to be acting on that maxim. After an anemic season for the CFL team sitting in Canada’s westernmost province in 2017 the powers that be at the Lions have decided the time to make a change is now.
Wally Buono is no longer the GM, and head coach of the BC Lions. He is ‘just’ the coach. The GM part of the equation will instead fall to former Esks GM Ed Hervey.
But it is fair to say, Buono is more than just an ordinary coach. He has coached cumulatively for 23 years with the Calgary Stampeders and British Colombia Lions, amassing a 273-156-13 record along the way, has the most wins in the CFL and has lead his teams to 9 Grey Cup finals and won 5 of them.
After a 5 year hiatus following on from leading BC to the Grey Cup in 2011 he returned for a 12-6 run on the sideline in 2016, rising hopes of something big in 2017. It wasn’t to be as the fashionable pick to do well in 2017, the Lions crashed back to earth with a 7-11 record and a last placed finish in the CFL West Division. After an encouraging 5-2 start inconsistent play hampered the Lions chances and they stumbled to a 2-9 finish missing the CFL playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Something had to give and that something was Buono being in a dual coach/GM role. So alongside Buono coaching the Leos have brought in Ed Hervey to be the GM. As the GM for Edmonton Hervey went 40-32 and after winning Grey Cups as a player in 2003 and 2005, built the 2015 Grey Cup Champions as an executive.
There was some controversy in Hervey’s departure from Edmonton as he had closed the Eskimos locker room to the media and insisted on interviews being given in another room or on the field. When he was sacked one of the reasons given was ‘philosophical differences’ – a veiled reference to this policy.
This is a chance for Ed Hervey to rejuvenate his image. For Buono this is a chance to focus on coaching in his probable last year in the job. It’s also a nice way for the Lions to transition things towards the future. For 2018 Buono and Hervey can help each other. Hervey said Buono’s continued involvement was a selling point when considering the job. Buono has also said it’s important for Hervey to get the lay of the land and he can help him with that – knowing just how this team works. Perhaps he can also learn how better to handle the media – something Wally certainly knows how to do.
They have experience of each other in the back office world too. It was Hervey who traded with Buono to take reigning CFL MOP Mike Reilly to Edmonton. Buono hasn’t forgotten how shrewd he was then either. Now in the Western Division only Chris Jones of the Saskatchewan Roughriders holds the title as coach and general manager. It will be interesting to see if the Lions splitting those roles will pay the dividends they hope for.
Picture from cfl.ca