Buono gets new lease

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Wally Buono wasn't exactly pacing the floor of his Vancouver hospital room yesterday, plotting how best to lead his Lions to next year's Grey Cup game.

And he certainly wasn't firing up one of those expensive Cuban cigars he's grown to love. In fact, stogies are now a forbidden pleasure forever tucked away in his memory bank instead of his desk drawer, a definite no-no for heart patients.

Buono's been relegated for the next few days to tingling his taste buds with some of that yummy hospital grub, incentive enough to strive for an early discharge or, dare we suggest, to start stringing together bed sheets to escape via the window.

That said, the 54-year-old GM-head coach already has recovered enough from Monday's bypass surgery to deem himself fit for the family's annual Hawaiian getaway. Proof once again that you can't keep a good man down, at least not for long.

"Thank you to the friends and fans of the B.C. Lions who have sent their best wishes and prayers," Buono said yesterday in a statement issued by the team.

"I send you my utmost gratitude. I feel like I had a big team behind me.

"To the doctors and care staff at the hospital, you have been wonderful.

"I thank the media and the public for the interest in my well being but now request that all media respect the need for me to recover in privacy."

The serious operation was to repair an artery blockage, made even more dangerous in light of his own high cholesterol and a history of heart disease in his family.

The former Calgary Stampeders boss, the CFL coaching fraternity's Big Kahuna, plans to be sunning himself by mid-December on the sandy beaches of the island paradise.

Lions offensive line coach, Dan Dorazio, who has worked beside Buono the last seven seasons in both Vancouver and Calgary, thinks the tropical junket is the best route for Buono's recovery.

"He's going to be in the hospital for five days, then he's planning on going to Hawaii, which is probably the best thing you can do -- go relax and recuperate out there like he normally does," advises Dorazio, a 32-year veteran of the coaching trenches.

"I'm sure when he gets back, he'll start back into work. He may not be as quick as he was, I don't know, but he's not anticipating missing any more work time."

Buono had put off the surgery for two months to stay with his team through its Grey Cup run that ended Nov. 21 with a 27-19 loss to Toronto in the championship game.

After the holiday season, Dorazio expects it will be business as usual for Lions as they begin planning for the 2005 CFL season, with Buono again masterminding the club's day-to-day operations.

"We're preparing for personnel meetings with him in January," Dorazio notes.

"He's given us assignments to do while he's gone so that when we have these meetings in January, we're up to snuff."

You can be sure Dorazio's bronzed boss will be back to full speed by then, planning another Grey Cup run.


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