Samsung coach on player growth and why he hates talking about the team’s “golden age.”

After Samsung Galaxy clinched a spot in the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World Championship, Slingshot’s Andrew Kim caught up with coach Choi Woo-Beom (in Korean, translated into English) to talk about recruiting players, the “golden age” of Samsung and goals going forward.

Andrew Kim: Samsung has looked exceptionally strong in Week 2. Did you have a good feeling going into the games?

Choi Woo-Beom: Yes, I certainly had a feeling. (Friday) we had a review session during scrims, and the feedback was great. The players got together to watch the past games that played well and went over what we weren’t doing, and the players came away from it all looking better so I had a good feeling. I thought we would make it out of groups.

AK: (Kang “Ambition” Chan-Yong) had said that he tends to prefer more comfortable picks and bans in best of one games. Do you agree with his assessment?

CWB: I do most of the work when it comes to drafting, and talk to the players about a couple of things, so I think it might differ depending on the game and who we’re up against.

AK: The rebuilding of Samsung is a narrative that keeps coming up with this year. Do you think with this unexpected success, you’re one step closer to rebuilding that golden age of Samsung?

CWB: I actually don’t like the mentioning of “the golden age” and stuff like that. They’re all players that no longer have any ties to Samsung, and I don’t like how some reporters keep mentioning that to the team. Even (Cho “Mata” Se-Hyoung) said he didn’t like it either, since there is no real connection between us and them. The team now is made of up mostly new talent. I don’t think mostly about topics like that, and our goal is to do our best game to game.

AK: You mentioned that you had a review session with the team, so I have to ask what you guys mostly talked about during that period.

CWB: For starters, we learned what we lacked with the reviews. Yesterday was the only day in which we lost all of our scrims, even though we usually do very well. It seemed like we were doing worse when we try to copy things that other teams were doing, rather than playing our game. So we had a small get together after scrims, and I think the players learned a lot with those replays.

AK: During this success story of Samsung, which player had the most growth in your opinion?

CWB: I honestly think the entire team grew a lot. There isn’t a player that didn’t grow, but if I had to choose I think (Lee “Crown” Min-Ho) and (Lee “CuVee” Sung-Jin) had the most growth. CuVee in particular is getting better on site, and I think he’s at the peak of his career right now. It’s enough that he gets solo kills every single scrim we have, and I’m thankful that he continues to perform. He’s also a player that listens to me. I think we came this far because the players are all receptive rather than because of one player. I think that’s the core of our play. We play together as a team, rather than having one player doing exceptionally well. Even at the beginning of the LCK, not worlds, we were called a seventh, eighth place team, but we’re here now. I’m thankful for the players above all, also to the coaching staff and the company who continue to support us well.

AK: Is there any pressure that comes with this unexpected success in worlds?

CWB: I feel no pressure at all, because we already came a lot further than anyone had expected, and I told the players to enjoy their games rather than piling on more on top of them. We already did everything we could, and even if we dropped now, nobody can say anything. I think maybe because of that we’re having such success.

AK: Crown has said that he had some trouble with being sick. How did the team make sure he didn’t get worse or spread it to other players?

CWB: When he wasn’t playing well, we fed him medicine as soon as scrims were over. We brought over our own medicine from Korea as well. And then we put him to bed as soon as we got back to the place we were staying, and he recovered. In my case, I wasn’t really sick, but am still having trouble with time zones. Even today I went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 4, but I couldn’t fall back asleep. Maybe it was because we had games, but other than one day I didn’t sleep well at all. The players all seem like they’re fine though.

AK: With Samsung’s performance at worlds, many fans in Korea have changed their opinions to be more in favor of Samsung. Are you happy to have fan support like this?

CWB: Well, the players are certainly happy for the fan support. With the amount of attention the team is getting, we’re trying our best to meet expectations. We’ve been buying everything the team has said that they wanted to eat, and doing everything we can that they want us to do. Not just myself, but the coaches are doing very hard work. Players tend to get all the limelight, so I hope the fan support extends to the coaching staff’s hard work, and I also hope the fans don’t be too harsh if we do drop a game. I think none of the fans thought that we would make it this far 7 or 8 months ago. I didn’t either. Now that we have, I hope they enjoy the ride.

AK: Finally, I’m sure you’re thinking somewhat about the coming 2017 spring season for Samsung as well. What are some goals you have?

CWB: I think we’ll spend some more time looking at players to sign. New players are an important resource to a team, and I think I’ll be busy watching games in order to do so right after worlds. There’s also the Kespa cup to think about. Rather than saying “we’ll be first place,” or something like that, we aim to just do our best, and when we do so, it doesn’t matter if we lose or not.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games

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