Tides have turned

Steve Buratto, left, was introduced yesterday as the Stampeders' new offensive co-ordinator....

Steve Buratto, left, was introduced yesterday as the Stampeders' new offensive co-ordinator. Buratto was hired by his old friend and new Calgary coach Tom Higgins, back, who was all smiles yesterday. (Calgary Sun/Stuart Dryden)

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Twenty-one years ago in the same office, Steve Buratto gave Tom Higgins his start as a professional football coach.

Yesterday, Higgins was able to repay the favour by giving his old friend a job: As offensive co-ordinator of the Calgary Stampeders.

"I have a personal relationship with Steve," Higgins said with a wide smile. "He's a friend and I can't wait to have his wife on board as well. I'm really looking forward to reuniting his family with my family."

After taking over the CFL club's football operations Friday, Higgins has wasted no time putting together his coaching staff.

And Buratto, 61, was an easy choice as offensive co-ordinator. The two first encountered each other when Higgins was a linebacker with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1980 and Buratto was an offensive coach.

Four years later, Buratto was head man in Calgary and hired Higgins to coach the linebackers for the Stampeders. Both men have travelled throughout the league the past two decades, building impressive resumes.

Higgins won the Grey Cup in 2003 as coach of the Eskimos. Buratto won the 2000 title in the same position with the B.C. Lions. They will put their heads together to turn around last season's lacklustre Stamps offence.

And if experience is as valuable as Higgins says, the Stamps should have no trouble returning to glory.

"Experience is a critical factor and it's one thing that's expensive," said Buratto. "You have to pay for experience. It takes time and it's going to cost you.

"If you're going to learn something, it's going to cost you: Money, time, heartache.

"From what you learn, there aren't free lessons."

Higgins made two other announcements yesterday, promoting Craig Dickenson to special teams co-ordinator and receivers coach from assistant coach and retaining Casey Creehan as defensive line coach.

With veteran coach Denny Creehan as assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator, the Stamps have a mix of old and young, veteran and up-and-coming coaches.

"There's not lack of experience here," said Higgins, who also will hire a quarterbacks/ running backs coach and secondary coach.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how it all blends together. I know it will blend together extremely well."

For the past two seasons, Buratto shaped the offence for the B.C. Lions under Wally Buono. Blessed with two great quarterbacks in Vancouver, Buratto's offence was the best in the league for points scored and yardage.

The Lions also were second in the league for rushing yards per game -- a nice, balanced attack. So expect a complete turn-around from the pass-happy game plan the Stamps used last season.

"In the boxer's lexicon, if you can't punch them in the belly, you're going to be get beat," Buratto said. "If you can't run off-tackle, you won't win football games.

"There are teams in the league that say, 'Run all you want because you can't win that way.' You can't just run the football and beat people because you need to make big plays.

"You have to make situations for the defence where they have to watch for it. If they're stubborn enough on defence not to change, you have to be smart enough to keep running it."

Coming back to Calgary was an easy choice for Buratto and his wife, Judy. He essentially was told there was no longer a job for him in Vancouver, so he's excited to make a fresh start.

When he coached the Stamps in 1984-85, Buratto compiled a losing record and was replaced mid-season by Bud Riley. Still, Calgary has a special place in his heart after winning the Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium in 2000.

"It's a place I have always loved and enjoyed," Buratto said. "I've always enjoyed coming back here when I coached other places.

"I was really disappointed I didn't stay but I didn't do the job properly. I needed to learn some things and I have learned those things."


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