Speaking during media day ahead of the LCK final, Hirai acknowledged the gap of experience when it comes to playoff finals, but given Longzhu’s history with promotional tournaments, he said pressure will not be a problem for his team.
“Although it’s true that our team doesn’t have a lot of experience in going to the finals of the LCK, we’re not giving it too much mind because we have been in multiple promotional tournaments, which is an even higher stress situation,” he said.
Hirai is referencing the fact that Longzhu’s previous form, Incredible Miracle, had to fight for a spot in the LCK on three separate occasions: the 2015 spring and summer splits, and the 2016 spring split. Relegation is often considered a death sentence to a team in any regions, and Korea is no exception. The mere chance a team could lose its spot causes stress for the players and coaches alike.
Despite his less than stellar track record as a League of Legends coach (before this split), Hirai is well known for his coaching prowess in StarCraft 2, as he guided a number of Global StarCraft League champions. Hirai said he fully intends to use the lessons learned from his time with StarCraft to defeat the SKT dynasty.
“This is my team’s first final in League of Legends, but I have gone through a number of finals and even won a number of championships,” he said. “I am aware of how to lead players on the way to the finals, and how to mentally direct the players on the day of the finals.”
After finishing fourth in the regular season, SKT reached the finals after defeating the Afreeca Freecs, Samsung Galaxy and KT Rolster. Despite winning the regular season, Longzhu is still considered an underdog in this series, a perception Hirai seemed to dismiss with a playful comment.
“We do have half a mind to win the series 3-0, but we’re considering to win 3-1, in order to prevent the fans from feeling too disappointed,” he said.