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.
Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp — Splyce's Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi
Personally I feel that this category is more of a contest of who sounds the smartest on broadcast when Riot invites coaches onto the analyst desk, rather than an actual evaluation of coaching skill. Why shouldn't it be?
The only thing we can judge when it comes to what a coach really does for the team besides what they tell us viewers in interviews or analyst desk segments is drafting. Drafting is also highly dependent on players, sometimes the meta doesn't really allow certain players to play certain champions that might be strong, and it isn't the coaches fault for not drafting a certain champion or strategy then.
I can't really judge a coach's work just by the rules they set in the gaming house. I'm not really in the position to blame Luis "Deilor" Sevilla for Fnatic's bad drafts, nor can I blame Neil "pr0lly" Hammad for not mentally preparing his players better for playoffs — because in the past this has been H2K's biggest obstacle. Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool might be a good coach but in multiple interviews he and his players said that they don't really need him to get better, that all of G2's players are smart enough to figure it out for themselves and that YoungBuck is more of a manager to them making sure that everything outside of the game is working well.
In my book the only legitimate props I can give is to Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi this split and this is the reason why I left the other two fields empty. I feel like he was good enough as a coach to implement a system for his players to work with when they don't have him on his side and are on their own. I also feel like that he is somewhat good at adapting in between games.
This doesn't mean I don't respect or value other coaches' impact on a team, it rather means that I don't have a clue what is going on in terms of how a team operates, despite being at different gaming houses as a visit and working together with teams. Nevertheless I want to take the chance to give some credit to YamatoCannon for pulling his team out of relegation and forming our probably second strongest European team out of players that were not even considered top three players in any role.
You can clearly see that Yamato and his team prepared good drafts and were on point for most of the split, and I suppose that this should count for something.
Editor's Note: Dexter opted to not vote for any runners-up in this category.
Tim Sevenhuysen — Splyce's Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi
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.
Splyce showed incredible growth this split, with Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi building on his previous split’s work as head coach. On paper, they had done little to upgrade themselves over the offseason, making a roster change at support but sticking with the rest of their players, who had failed to make a splash in the spring. Before the split started, I thought they’d land in relegation territory. Even after the first three weeks, I hadn’t seen enough to upgrade my opinion beyond “middle-of-the-pack.” But they stuck with it, they refined their team identity, they improved, and they did enough to land in second place and earn a bye to the semifinals.
Coordinated team play is Splyce’s main strength, as they set up and execute on split push strategies that demand clear, effective communication. Yamato’s work is evident in those strategies, and in the team’s awareness that drafting into those strategies gives them the best chance to win.
In second, I gave my vote to David “Lozark” Alonso of Giants Gaming. This was another story of over-achievement, with Giants finishing the regular season in a much higher position than their relatively inexperienced lineup suggested they should have.
Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool rounded out my ballot because G2 Esports was the best team in Europe by such a wide margin, and while the very talented roster was the main reason for it, the coaching staff deserves a shout out.
Honorable mentions: Giants Gaming's David "Lozark" Alonso and G2' Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool
Kelsey Moser — Splyce's Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi
My gut reaction to an award like “Coach of the Split” is “well, that’s a pointless award,” not because I think awarding coaching is pointless, but because I don’t think many outsiders can know enough about how teams work, what the value of a coach is to a team, and whether or not players would be successful on their own without a coach’s guidance. Outside draft, there’s very limited measurable impact that can be observed.
But as I thought about it more, I realized that there’s something that doesn’t fit into any other category that does deserve an award: an intangible, difficult to measure, that suggests the environment of a team behind the scenes is a good one. This can come in the form a visible sense of comraderie, a group of players performing considerably better than they did the split before, or just a definite sense that nothing is going wrong.
Yes, this is an award for, “Congratulations, you didn’t screw it up,” either by meddling too much or creating a negative environment. That may not sound like much of a significant award to the general public, but given the infancy of League of Legends esports coaching, some of the tales of incompetence that do come to light, and countless faux pas occurring that don’t reach the public eye, it actually may be the most important compliment you can give anyone.
Bonus points if you actually did do something positive — like drafting — which is also the bare minimum for receiving this award.
To be fair, this one was a gimme given the magnificent strides Splyce have made. Yet, believe it or not, I heard great things about YamatoCannon as far back as last season. Most of my sources have nothing but good things to say about YamatoCannon’s game knowledge and coaching ability, consenting that he isn’t just the EU LCS’ favorite memer, model and Paul “sOAZ” Boyer shit-talker. In fact, when discussing pre-2016 season rankings, a handful felt that Yamato’s addition drastically improved Splyce’s chances.
Whether this is true or not, Splyce went from a team that appeared to have absolutely no idea of what to do in-game regarding macro movements at the start of the 2016 Spring split to one of the most intelligent 1-3-1 teams in the league. Casters constantly praise their ability to close games and understand the best map choices in-game.
It’s very unlikely that a team that was comprised mostly of players in their second split would automatically just figure out how to play the map this well without guidance. And if they did, then YamatoCannon can accept the award on the behalf of the Splyce collective. Every member of Splyce deserves at least a vigorous congratulations for the feats they accomplished so far this year.
Honorable mentions: H2K's Neil "pr0lly" Hammad and G2's Joey "YoungBuck" Steltenpool