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Samsung coach on post-exodus rebuilding: “Honestly, I didn’t even think 1 percent that we would make it to worlds.”

Samsung Galaxy’s two-year quest back to the League of Legends World Championship is well known. Head coach Choi Woo-Beom is the man who helped rebuild the team and get it back to worlds caliber. Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with Woo-Beom during the opening weekend to talk (in Korean and translated to English) about rebuilding the roster, expectations for this tournament and the future of Samsung Galaxy.

Andrew Kim: Your story of rebuilding Samsung is very well known now. Did you think you would make it to worlds this quickly with the current roster?

Choi Woo-Beom: Honestly, I didn’t even think 1 percent that we would make it to worlds. All the players left in 2014 with only me left. I couldn’t get any established talent, and we had to struggle through the LCK with mostly new talent. I also had little to no time given for recruitment. I think was given about seven or eight days to find five to six players, so it was very difficult and I was under tremendous stress. But I was in the esports business for a long time. I also learned a lot from other players, and I spend a lot of my time watching games. I have a family, and I feel like I spend more time looking at games than seeing my family. That’s how I found new talent for the team.

AK: Samsung went through an incredible transformation in the span of (Saturday). How did you achieve this feat?

CWB: We originally planned to start practice late (Saturday). But this morning I woke up after two hours of sleep because of the stress. We didn’t lose any of the scrims before, but we lost without being able to do anything so originally the players were supposed to head to the venue at 3 or 4PM, but I woke them up a bit early and said “even if we lose, if we lose after doing our best we won’t have any regrets,” and convinced them to come to the venue for practice. I think that was very important, which also led to our game today. We also spent a lot of time about the drafting phase, and made a last-minute changes to the plan which worked well. We let Nidalee through on purpose, they picked it as we thought, and I thought we would do well like we did in practice while they didn’t practice our comp so I told the team to play comfortably.

AK: Korean players often talk about the difficulties of acclimating to a foreign region. How do you care for yourself and the team?

CWB: I think the players are doing well, but I think I haven’t been able to sleep more than four hours every day. I think I barely got over three hours of sleep today as well, because I keep waking up for some reason. I usually spend a lot of time caring for the physical condition of the players, but this time around I decided spend more time practicing rather than resting and the players followed me with that decision. I think that was the reason we played well today.

AK: You mentioned that you had to look for new talent for the roster. Do you think the players trust you more based on that close relationship?

CWB: I think that certainly exists. Actually (Lee “CuVee” Sung-Jin) joined after taking our test for the first time. I called him up about the recruitment test on his college entrance exam day, and he was very thankful for the opportunity. I’m also grateful for the team. I try to make an environment where the team can work hard on their own, and the coaching staff also works hard alongside the team. When the whole organization works together like this, I think the only result is improvement.

AK: As part of the group of death, you still have plenty of games left. Is there a team you’re looking out for in the coming week?

CWB: We don’t think about our opponents at all. I think we can do well if we just play hard as we usually do. If we lose after giving our all, we won’t regret anything.

AK: Finally, you’re well known in Korea as the head coach that takes particularly good care of his players. Do you have knowhow or tips to share?

CWB: I’ve been in the business since it began as a pro player for Starcraft 1 in Korea. I’ve been a player, a coach, and now I’m a head coach, so I think all that experience built up into a knowhow. I also learned a lot from other head coaches I’ve met. I have a good idea what direction to go with a particular player when I talk to him, so I act accordingly to the player. I scold players that need scolding, and praise players that need praising. I think I am very fast at noticing these things. I also have some insight in finding players that will go far when I see them practice.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games