JinAir Green Wings manager Han Sang-Yong first made his name in e-sports as an assistant to Hwaseung Oz manager Cho Jung-Oong. Although he took charge of the team after manager Cho's retirement, within a year Hwaseung was forced to disband. He joined Team 8 but not as the manager. Under manager Joo Hoon he was a coach, and became head coach after manager Joo left the day to day operations of the team. For someone who was once a manager, spending two years back as a coach shows his affection for e-sports.
Although no one could know how things would go for the team, manager Han trusted his players. This past July, with JinAir's sponsorship, he became manager once again. Now he must take care of a League of Legends team in addition to the StarCraft 2 team. Because things are not yet established, it is quite a burden to bear.
Even so, manager Han describes working in e-sports as his happiest time. As he prepared big developments at the newly renamed JinAir team, we met with manager Han Sang-Yong to hear his thoughts.
It's been 3 weeks since JinAir started the sponsorship, how are things?
Until now, I know there have been many attempts to find a sponsor. I heard there had been many cases where things were going smoothly but fell apart at the last minute. Eventually, the fear of disappointment was greater than the feeling of anticipation. Although we had received official notice from JinAir, it didn't sink in until the public announcement. However, after seeing us announce the sponsorship in front of many people I could see that it was a new birth for the team.
After gaining sponsorship, the burden seems to have increased
Since we had not made the official announcement yet, rather than feeling relieved I thought of it as just the beginning. With the feeling of starting fresh, not only did we need to work hard, we also needed to show results. It was the beginning of a difficult road (laugh).
How do you feel about the last Proleague season?
In a way, I had confidence in StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty. Our rookies' roles helped the team atmosphere. During the switch to StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, we had a good feeling about our prospects. However as the switch happened we were not able to adapt well. With our rookies racking up consecutive losses it was a difficult time to get through. I did my best to help them but it took a long time.
Even so, I could not abandon the new players. For example, Kim Doh-Wook (Cure) kept losing but it was something he had to overcome so I kept sending him out. All new players become scared when they lose matches. At that time we can let them rest, but then it takes longer for them to progress past it. Last season was a necessary step for the success of the team.
After gaining sponsorship from JinAir, what else do you need?
Honestly I wish for Lee Jae-Dong to return to the team. I would like for him to become our central pillar. His own will is important, but as a team we want him back. Also, now that the new players have achieved some success, he can depend on the coaching staff to deliver good results. Last season we were seen as a weak team, but this season, I want for us to be a dark horse.
The foreign player who came to play in Korea, Juan "MajOr" Lopez, must remain in your thoughts
He occasionally wrote us in English, "I miss you guys" or "I want to go to JinAir". To that, I jokingly wrote "Missing You". He told us that even if a foreign team tried to recruit him, he would not leave us. When I asked him why, he said it was because he would not be able to improve his skills as much with a foreign team. He wants to come back to the team but the competition is not easy. When he plays well he makes top 100 grandmaster league, but in order to participate, he will have to make at least the top 50. He was not able to make the last steps necessary to succeed as a pro, and I am sad and sorry about that.
Is there a particular player you have hopes for next season?
I would say Choi Jong-Hwan (CoCa). This is his first time on a Kespa team, so I do worry a little. But I think if we take care of him he will do well. The other players will do better than last season. The new players are doing well but I think that they can improve even more. Last season our Zerg line was a bit weak but now I have the wonderful problem of having to decide which strong player to send out (laugh).
Now that things have been resolved, tell us about Bang Tae-Soo (TRUE) and his retirement incident
When Tae-Soo joined out team he worked hard. All of the teammates considered him a hard worker. However, with switch to Heart of the Swarm his performance dropped. We were concerned; it seemed that he had lost interest in the game. Having difficulty adapting, he kept playing the same style as in Wings of Liberty. He must have had many thoughts at that time. One day we had a personal talk and he told me he wanted to retire.
After a few days he said he wanted to try the game again. I told him, "Retiring and returning again will be a handicap to the team rather than a help. You are doing well in individual leagues so don't think about retirement in the middle of the season".
I watched him closely after that. Although the World Championship Series (WCS) Challenger League was happening, he continued practicing late by himself even after normal sessions were over. Even during the vacation period he showed his hardworking side. It was the same look he had when he first joined the team. I am convinced to trust in him once again.
A few days ago the fans came to the practice house and bought us food. They asked, "is it okay if we smack Tae-soo?" Hearing that a player announcing retirement would again stand on the stage was a big surprise to the fans as well.
Now that you manage the League of Legends team as well, you must have to learn the game
It's fun. People have a tendency to slack off when work becomes routine, so having something new to learn with LOL keeps me busy and interested. Stealth (one of the LOL squads) was eliminated, which is regrettable, but I think it is expected given their current level. I definitely feel that they need to improve. Rather than pressure the players, we are trying to help shore up their weak points. Stealth won a match against Najin but we are still trying to fix their ongoing issues from before.
You really gave Najin a hard time
People have been saying that. Before the game, I went in the booth and told the players, "Don't think of anything else, just focus on our team's match." Even winning just one match, I wanted to show our team's solidarity. I think they were focused until the end. Though up until now they lost a lot in practice and were unable to trust each other, they were able to play like that.
Before the match with Najin I had a drink with the players and shared stories. I told them that anyone can be beaten. We are currently trying to shore up each other's weak points. Our top lane player Yeo Chang-Dong (Trace) had a lot of trouble and looked to be slumping even when we won. I have to know about many different champions but right now my knowledge is very limited. I asked them a lot about champion selection. Thankfully they practiced hard and were able to show a good result.
What about Falcon, which is in the Round of 8?
We are still trying to get in sync. Falcon's team atmosphere is very volatile. When things go well they are very strong, but in the opposite case they often fall apart. In the MVP open they showed an unwinnable game. We need to get that aspect under control.
You've become a manager again after two years. What kind of leader do you want to be?
When I joined Team 8 I was a regular coach rather than manager but I do not regret it. The specific position is not as important as doing work that I enjoy. When Hwaseung Oz disbanded, I considered doing other work, but I did not think that anything could be as fun as e-sports. It is very nice working here.
Practicing together and sleeping together with the players, I feel like we've become closer than lovers. I've been a manager and coach up until now, but in terms of a family, I want to become a motherly figure. Rather than a person who scolds, I want to be someone who can protect and care for the players. I want to be able to shelter the players even when they whine and complain. The coaching staff can take care of punishment.
Original article by Kim Yong-Woo firstname.lastname@example.org