Wally Buono was formerly the Vice President, Football Operations, General Manager, and Head Coach of the BC Lions. Wally retired as Lions head coach following the 2011 season, a record-setting run that saw him lead the Lions to nine playoff appearances; six appearances in the Western Final and a crossover visit to the Eastern Final as well as two Grey Cup Championships in 2006 and 2011. Wally returned to the Lions sideline in the 2016 season before calling it a career again following the 2018 season. Wally was inducted into the BC Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2018, receiving the CFL Bob Ackles Award.
Wally stepped down as Lions head coach in December 2011 following the Lions’ Grey Cup win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but returned to the sidelines for the 2016 CFL season, continuing to lead the team until 2018. His stable and patient approach in 2011 not only resulted in the club’s sixth league title, it also earned him his fourth Coach of the Year honour.
In a coaching career that spanned nearly three decades in Calgary and BC, Buono led his teams to 13 regular season division titles and five Grey Cup championships. In 2009, Buono surpassed Don Matthews’ 232 victories to become the all-time leader in coaching wins and finished his amazing career with a regular season record of 282 wins, 165 losses and three ties. Wally is also the Lions’ leader in career wins as head coach with 129. His consistency and success were previously recognized with the CFL’s Coach of the Year Award in 2006, 1992 and 1993. Wally was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in the Builder category in 2014.
Born in Potenza, Italy, in 1950, Wally moved to Canada in 1953 with his family, later playing minor football in Montreal. He attended Idaho State University and was a linebacker for the Bengals. Wally returned to Canada and played 10 seasons with the Montreal Alouettes as a linebacker and punter, appearing in 152 games. Shortly after his retirement, Wally tried his hand at coaching, landing an assistant position with the Montreal organization in 1983. Four years later, Wally found himself in Calgary where he worked under Larry Kuharich until 1990 when Stamps president Norman Kwong hired him as head coach.
In addition to his accomplishments as a coach and administrator, Wally is a noted contributor to the community and was recognized for his work with the Paul Harris Award in 2001. Wally continues to donate a significant amount of time as an ambassador of the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and as a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Among his charitable efforts, Wally is actively involved with Operation Christmas Child, giving presents of clothing and toys to children of impoverished nations. Following the passing of his good friend and former teammate Tony Proudfoot in 2010, Wally lends his support to the ALS Society of BC’s WALK for ALS.
Wally was made a Member of the Order of Canada in December 2014. He was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016 in the builders’ category, and was also inducted into the Italian Cultural Centre Hall of Fame. In 2023, he was inducted into the BC Lions Wall of Fame.
Wally and his wife Sande have four children, Amy, Dayna, Christie and Michael and four grandchildren, Jonah, Lucas, Jack and Lucy.