Samsung Galaxy head coach Choi Woo-Beom was not in an enviable position in 2015, as Samsung was at risk of being relegated from League Champions Korea. But with a turnaround that led to a berth in the League of Legends World Championship, not even he was spared from happy tears, writes Fomos’ Son Chang-Sik.
“I wasn’t sure we could, but I had a feeling,” he told Fomos. “I thought it would be difficult because we have a smaller champion pool than KT Rolster. But when we won Game 4 against them and were halfway through the fifth game, I started to cry. I felt that we finally did it.”
Samsung was in a tough spot after the 2014 world championships, as the entire roster jumped to China, leaving an empty void. The head coach said that finding the players to continue to play in the LCK was a challenge, he and spent a lot of his spare time looking at solo queue to find candidates for the current team.
“(Lee “CuVee” Seong-Jin) had a very large champion pool and was incredibly enthusiastic,” he said. “(Lee “Crown” Min-Ho) is a very hard worker, and had a great mind so I signed him. Without Crown I don’t think we could have made such a good result. In the case of (Kang “Ambition” Chan-Yong,) he was someone we needed the most. We needed a seasoned player with experience and the leadership to pull the team forward. I had confidence in him even outside his performance from his past time so I signed him.”
Choi also gave some insight into the scouting process of Samsung Galaxy, saying that they don’t utilize online tryouts, only offline ones in order to see how well a new recruit can mesh with the rest of the team.
“We don’t have separate tests online,” he said. “We only evaluate offline. For a team game we need to also see personality just as much as we see one’s skill. At the time, we put him on the starting roster right after we signed him because I believed that he can perform well. Even though he was new, I thought he would work well with the experienced team we had.”
Of course like any head coach, Choi also has a couple of rituals and old school signs of good luck before each game for the best results.
“On the day of the match, I quietly go to a particular sushi place,” he said. “It’s small, and on the days I eat there we tended to have good results. Also I wear red underwear for good luck. For the finals against KT, my wife got me red underwear and told me to win.”
Of course, being a head coach is fraught with conflict, and there were some hard moments for Choi. The hardest moment in his career was when he had to ask Kwon “CoreJJ” Yong-In to switch roles.
“Signing Ruler and asking CoreJJ to switch roles weighed the heaviest on my heart,” he said. “I was incredibly sorry when I talked to CoreJJ separately to talk to him about the role switch. I was unsure if I was making the right call, but he also wanted a change so it was timed very well. As a head coach you need to increase the odds of victory, so it’s hardest to bring up tough topics to the team first.”
With Samsung’s venture into worlds, Choi said he’s keeping in mind the same mentality they had before they were even able to think about competing at worlds, and believes that will be the key to further success.
“Our goal is to get out of groups, but I don’t have any immediate goals to make it to the semis,” he said. “If we play each game without regrets and giving our all, I think good results should follow. The players are the ones competing, and I intend to do everything in my power to help them play without too much pressure.”