Doug Berry believes the right man won the 2006 CFL coach of the year award last night in Montreal.
B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono captured the Annis Stukus Trophy for the third time in his illustrious career after guiding his squad to a 13-5 regular-season record and its third straight West Division title.
Buono and the Lions went on to win the Grey Cup in November, but it should be noted that voting for coach of the year was conducted prior to the playoffs.
"If I had a vote, it would have gone to him," Berry, one of the three finalists, said after last night's ceremony. "He did a great job. He was 2-3 and ended up with a 13-5 mark, which was the best in the CFL by three wins.
"So he did a good job, especially coming off the 2-3 start. That was pivotal. He finished the season 11-2."
In voting conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada, Buono was first on 34 of 46 ballots. Berry received eight votes, while the other finalist, Toronto Argonauts boss Michael (Pinball) Clemons, got two.
Tom Higgins of the Calgary Stampeders and Danny Barrett, formerly of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, both got one vote.
While Buono ran away with the honour, Berry has no reason to hang his head after a solid season as a rookie head man. He turned around a sad-sack Bomber squad that was 5-13 in 2005 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season.
Last year's team improved to 9-9 under Berry, a former Montreal Alouettes assistant, and likely would have been above .500 had it not been for simultaneous injuries to No. 1 quarterback Kevin Glenn and star slotback Milt Stegall in August.
"I accomplished what I wanted to get done, and that was to get the Winnipeg Blue Bombers recognized," Berry said. "We are being recognized now, and hopefully we can find a way to keep us there."
Berry's goal last season was to get the Bombers into the playoffs, and that's what he did. There was no happy ending, however, as Winnipeg lost the East Division semifinal to the Argonauts.
Berry's focus this year is to host a playoff game for the first time since 2003.
'THE NEXT GOAL'
"That's the next step," he said. "I don't want to take it too far, but that's the next goal. That would be it every year."
Buono is only the third CFL coach to win the award three times, joining Don Matthews (five times) and Jack Gotta (three). Buono's first two wins came in 1992 and 1993, when he was guiding the Calgary Stampeders.
Buono is second among CFL coaches with 202 career victories. He trails only Matthews, who has 231.
LATE HIT: Berry said he has hired a new defensive backs coach -- it will be announced soon -- but he is still in the process of finding an offensive co-ordinator and either an offensive line coach or a quarterbacks coach.
THE VOTES ARE IN
The results of the 2006 CFL coach of the year voting, as conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada:
Coach 1st-place votes
Wally Buono, B.C. 34
Doug Berry, Wpg 8
Michael Clemons, Tor 2
Danny Barrett, Sask 1
Tom Higgins, Cgy 1