With Riot Games revealing their latest LCS Summer Split 2016 awards — for Coach of the Split — theScore esports sat down to break down our votes.
Emily Rand — Cloud9's Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu
Coach of the Split is one of the most difficult awards to evaluate from an outsider’s perspective. There are always factors present that spell out certain victory or doom for a team that no one outside of that team can possibly understand. Additionally, as outsiders, we are limited in what denotes a good coach to results and what little can be gleaned from players and other staff.
Different teams need different coaches and staff members. One team may need to be micromanaged in all aspects of the game on the Rift. They need a darkroom guy who is more of an analyst who can describe the ins and outs of how to coordinate map movement and what that looks like from a player perspective. Another team might have all of the pieces in place — a mechanically-gifted team that naturally fits well together in game — but require someone to mediate discussions. They need a communicator who can see all sides of an argument and is able to both take in and dispense information in various ways so that every team member can understand what they are saying and what their teammates are trying to say.
This is also an award that I wish was calculated and tallied following playoffs as opposed to after the regular season since taking a team through the postseason successfully is one of the few identifiable factors that an outsider to a team can have when evaluating the effectiveness of their coach. As previously mentioned, there’s very little to go by in terms of identifying who is the best coach outside of results, and playoffs present the best results available to an outsider.
Unlike this season’s Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming or Immortals, Cloud9 rebooted their roster with old and new players alike, committing to an LCS life without Hai. This is something that they had tried out and failed to move forward from in previous seasons, so I had trepidation when predicting how well this new team would perform. Their new roster looked alright on paper, but as history has shown time and again, this means next to nothing, especially considering how much of a team game League of Legends has become.
Under Reapered, C9 was finally able to move forward with a new team. At first, they looked like a shaky assembly of solo queue players, but C9 continued to improve throughout the split, and now prepare to take on Immortals in the 2016 NA LCS Summer semifinals. Their third place regular season finish was identical to their 2016 NA LCS Spring regular season placement, but where that team was eliminated by TSM in the quarterfinals, this C9 team looks far more cohesive and strong. Multiple C9 players have spoken highly of him, even going as far as to say that they didn’t know how much influence a coach could have. Even if they lose to Immortals this weekend, I think they’ve shown a large amount of growth during the split and much of that can likely be attributed to Reapered.
Honorable mention: TSM's Parth Naidu and Immortals' Dylan Falco
Tim Sevenhuysen — Team SoloMid's Parth Naidu
Judging coaches is incredibly difficult. As outsiders, we are only able to see the coaches’ influence through how their teams play on the Rift, with occasional insight through interviews, behind-the-scenes shows, or snippets of audio from pregame speeches or drafting as shared by the Riot production crew.
With those restrictions in mind, when trying to identify effective coaching, I look for the following things:
1) Their team plays as a unit, showing strong communication and good coordination.
2) Their team shows mental strength and resilience.
3) Their drafts are smart, effective, and creative.
4) Most importantly, their team improves over time, and shows that they are able to identify and work on their own strengths and weaknesses.
We have some ideas of which coaches prioritize different elements of coaching, but it’s not always clear what the roles and responsibilities are within the overall coaching staff. Some coaches will spend more time and effort on communication and mental strength, while their analysts work on drafting, scouting opponents, and developing creative in-game tactics. Some coaches will take the tactical work on themselves. Since those roles are varied, and depend on the size of the staff, etc., I’ve chosen to cast my “Best Coach” votes as a vote for each team’s overall coaching staff, not necessarily for the individual named on the ballot.
Let’s start by clearing up the baggage that comes with this selection: by voting for Parth Naidu — who was the name listed on the ballot for Team SoloMid — I was very intentionally voting for the entirety of TSM’s coaching staff. I don’t want to take anything away from Parth, but from my perspective, a huge part of the credit for this award rests on Weldon Green’s shoulders.
The TSM coaching staff, as a unit, checked all the boxes in my criteria:
Good drafting? Check.
Mental strength? Check.
Strong teamwork and coordination? It was their foundation, especially seeing the growth in Doublelift’s team play and the huge effort Bjergsen put into enabling his teammates.
Improvement? To be fair, I’d say TSM’s biggest improvements came during the offseason, rather than over the course of the split, but that still qualifies in my books.
This has been possibly the best split in TSM’s history, and from what I can tell as an outsider, the coaching staff had a lot to do with it.
At second and third, I voted for Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu of Cloud9 and Dylan Falco of Immortals, respectively.
Reapered helped Cloud9 improve a lot over the course of the split. They had a mid-season lull but worked through it, and I saw growth in their communication and game planning, as well as notable improvement in how they made use of Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong in the top lane, drawing more on him as a point of strength in their lineup rather than leaving him stranded as a sacrificial lamb. Cloud9’s tactics have gotten better and better, and Reapered’s handiwork is evident.
Dylan’s Immortals were a strong team, and showed more strategic diversity this summer than they showed the previous split. There was some regression in Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon’s play, unfortunately, made up for by growth from Eugene “Pobelter” Park, and it’s still unclear whether this has made Immortals a better team overall, but they still accomplished good things in the regular season and put some work into increasing their versatility.
An alternative third-place choice would have been Tony “Zikz” Gray of Counter Logic Gaming. He would have climbed into third on my ballot, or even second, if CLG’s creative adaptations in the quarterfinals were included in the voting, but this was a regular season award, and while CLG improved over the course of the split, they didn’t improve quickly enough for my liking.
Honorable mentions: Cloud9's Bok "Reapered" Han-gyu and Immortals' Dylan Falco