VANCOUVER - The B.C. Lions have found their new voice on the sidelines.
A week after stepping down as head coach of the team, general manager Wally Buono announced his successor Tuesday, naming Mike Benevides as the club's new coach.
While the move was an anticipated one -- Buono hinted at it during his press conference last week -- the GM said the decision to promote the club's defensive co-ordinator was the right choice.
"Mike has been with me a lot of years, and every opportunity that I've given him, he's excelled at," Buono said. "I think the next step in our journey to make this organization as strong as it can be, is to be choosing the right person to lead this football club and to be the face of this football club.
"He's earned this opportunity and I do believe Mike is the right guy."
Benevides becomes the 24th head coach in franchise history and takes over the reins from the CFL's all-time wins leader. The legacy Buono has left doesn't add any extra pressure, according to Benevides.
"I want to win and we're going to win, so all of the other things aren't relative to me," the 45-year-old said. "I'm an intense guy, I'm a competitive guy. And it's exciting because of the challenge. We have a tremendous opportunity here to set a dynasty in place with the players in this room and I wouldn't want it anywhere else."
If anything, having Buono around will be beneficial for Benevides.
"I'm going to lean on him. I'm going to ask him questions. I'm going to use him as a sounding board," Benevides said. "I'll draw on that knowledge of what to do and what not to do.
"People don't realize we've been going to war for 12 seasons. We've won three Grey Cups together. We know how it works. We understand the relationship is based on respect and we work tremendously well together."
Benevides began his CFL career in 2000 after approaching Buono, who was with the Calgary Stampeders at the time, about a guest coaching position. He landed a job with the Stamps, winning a championship with Buono in 2001 as a special teams coach before moving with Buono to the Lions in 2003.
Nine seasons later, having served as a special teams co-ordinator for the first five years and defensive co-ordinator and linebackers coach for the last four, the Toronto native finds himself in the head role with the Lions.
Buono won't be on the sidelines during the season. He said he wants to be a lot less visible to allow Benevides to get comfortable in his new job.
Benevides will also pick his own coaching staff and will be giving the current coaches right of first refusal to stay on. He hasn't decided if he'll retain his role as the defensive co-ordinator.
Moving forward, Benevides is hoping to build on the standards Buono set while making his own mark.
"We plan to win a lot more championships after this," he said. "I'm going to teach those players, I want to make sure that we empower those players, and I want to make sure that we provide them an environment and a place where we promote team first and family first.
"I'm ready to go to work and June 1 can't come soon enough."