The Philosopher King

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono gets doused with water by his players after defeating the Toronto...

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono gets doused with water by his players after defeating the Toronto Argonauts to become the winningest coach in CFL history in Vancouver on September 19, 2009. (Lyle Stafford/Reuters)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

EDMONTON - As Richie Hall stands on the brink of being fired, Wally Buono stands on the other sideline prepared to push him over the edge.

Buono’s seen them come. Buono’s seen them go.

Hall would be No. 89.

That’s right. I added ’em all up. Since Normie Kwong hired Buono as head coach of the Calgary Stampeders in 1990, Buono has seen 88 of them coaching other teams in the CFL. Some of them were counted more than once in different stints with the other teams. There were even a few in second comings with the same club which, cringe, could be the case here if Hall gets fired and the radioactive Danny Maciocia returns to replace him.

Buono is here to coach his 365th consecutive regular-season game and go for a record 237th win. He could personally be responsible for what would be five of the last eight home losses for the Eskimos, who go into Friday’s game with only six wins to show for their last 13 games in Commonwealth Stadium.

Since Buono left Calgary in 2003, the Stampeders have had four coaches.

In his years coaching Calgary, B.C. had nine head coaches including Adam Rita twice.

Since Buono has been coaching, both the Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders have had eight different head coaches.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are on their 11th in that span.

The Toronto Argos are up to 16, including Don Matthews, Bob O’Billovich, Pinball Clemons and Jim Barker twice each.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are at nine.

Montreal sits at eight, including Jim Popp twice.

Ottawa, in the years they were in the league, had eight.

And Memphis, Las Vegas, Birmingham, Sacramento, San Antonio, Shreveport and Baltimore one each (lest we forget Pepper Rogers, Ron Meyer, Jack Pardee, Forrest Gregg, etc.).

Eighty-eight!

You get the idea.

This is not Buono’s first rodeo. This is not the first game he’s coached when the guy on the other sideline was on the verge of being bucked off.

“I’ve seen it before,” he said Thursday when the B.C. Lions arrived at Commonwealth Stadium to prepare for Friday’s tilt between a team which has lost four in a row and a team which has lost three in a row and managed their only win here to open the season.

“It’s part of the business. It comes with the job. I understand it,” he said.

“Is it fair? Life isn’t fair. Football isn’t fair.

“When you win, somebody else loses. You might have feelings for it. But you can’t show compassion.

“For three hours you have to understand your job and take the emotion out of it.

“That’s life. That’s the business we’re in.”

Buono has never had to coach from the edge of a cliff like Richie Hall will in the 7 p.m. game at Commonwealth Stadium Friday. But he says he can’t imagine that he would be coaching any harder.

“We don’t have the authority people seem to think. We don’t have a magic wand we can bring out. We try to prepare people and put confidence in people to go out and succeed. And then we’re at their mercy.

“You can tell people ‘Don’t drop footballs’ but that’s not going to make them not drop a football. The bottom line is the scoreboard and the standings.

“You are always judged after the fact. Did you win? Did you lose? That’s the one certainty. There’s going to be one winner and one loser.”

The focus here is on the local losers, the team which could go 0-5 for the first time since 1965.

“In what may be the most critically important regular-season game in franchise history ...” were the words on the Eskimo organization’s own pre-game preview Thursday.

Lions president Dennis Skulsky didn’t call a press conference this week to put Buono and the entire B.C organization on notice. But that doesn’t mean the Leo’s are headed here for a picnic (even if it usually turns out that they end up having one).

“You’ve got to declare who you are — impostors or the real thing,” says Buono of his own bunch. “I don’t usually like to talk about the other team. Are we happy at 1-3? Anybody who knows me knows the answer to that. When you are who you are, you have to wonder why you are,” said the professor. “We can’t continue with this, either. We all know the intensity of this game and the importance of this game.”

But no matter what happens in this one, Wally Buono knows he’s going to be coaching in the next one.

Not the other guy.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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