Kavis Reed, who as a rookie coach guided the Eskimos to a berth in the Western Final, is a finalist for CFL coach-of-the-year, along with the legendary Wally Buono of the Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions and Paul LaPolice, who led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the title game in his second year as head man, the league announced Thursday.
“All three of these gentlemen had remarkable seasons,” CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon said in a statement. “They all showed the ability to fight through adversity and turn around their team’s fortunes, exemplifying the leadership that is worthy of this award.”
Reed took over a team that went 7-11 in 2010 and fashioned an 11-7 won-lost record in 2011. The Eskimos played host to their first playoff game since 2004, a 33-19 victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Semifinal at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Eskimos lost to eventual Grey Cup champion B.C. in the West Final, finishing the season on an encouraging note, despite the loss.
Buono, who has won more games as a head coach than anyone in CFL history, is a finalist following his last season as a head coach. Buono’s Lions went 8-1 in 2010 and started 2011 losing five straight and six of their first seven. They finished by winning 10 of the last 11 games to post an 11-7 won-lost mark in a Grey Cup season, the fifth title for Buono.
Shortly after that Grey Cup triumph at Vancouver’s sparkling, newly renovated B.C. Place Stadium, Buono announced he was stepping away from coaching duties, but he will remain with the Lions as general manager and vice-president of football operations.
Buono has been named CFL Coach of the Year three times, in 1992 and ’93 when he coached the Calgary Stampeders, and in 2006 with B.C.
LaPolice, who had coached on the same staff in Saskatchewan with Reed before taking on the job in Winnipeg, led the Blue Bombers to a 10-8 won-lost mark in the East, after the club bumbled and stumbled to a 4-14 record his first year.
The Blue Bombers won the East Final over Hamilton to advance to the club’s first Grey Cup game since 2007.
The winner will be presented the Annis Stukus Trophy on Friday, March 2 at the 51st Coach of the Year celebration at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto.
The 2011 Coach of the Year nominees were selected by 56 voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada, including representation from each CFL market and a national chapter.