Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo has always been a better coach than a player. He was in the center of KOO Tigers in 2015 and many people said that he contributed much to 2017 Longzhu Gaming. Which is why SSONG moved to the LCS with glowing accolades. During his four years in NA, SSONG seemed to have learned a lot. He wasn’t always successful, but he stood as the head coach of various teams including the most popular team in the league: TSM.
After leaving the LCS, SSONG returned to the LCK as the interim head coach of DRX, whose head coach Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho had been suspended for five months. It may not have been the best choice for SSONG, but he was confident. “It could be a poisoned chalice, but it’s a chance for me to prove my ability,” said SSONG. How would his 2021 spring season go? Prior to the season, we had a chance to talk to SSONG.
You’ve returned to the LCK after four years since you coached Longzhu Gaming in 2017. How do you feel about returning to the league?
I like taking challenges and hate falling behind. Rather than enjoying the glorious days of the past, I wanted to prove myself by taking challenges and improving through them. That’s one of the reasons I went from team to team every year. I’m happy that I have another chance to prove myself. I’m looking forward to competing with smart LCK teams and players and beat them.
You went through a lot over the past four years in the LCS. Immortals, TSM, Cloud9, Echo Fox, Counter Logic Gaming… Was there anything different that you felt from the LCS league in itself?
The LCS has high priority in analyzing and discussing. The biggest difference is that they prefer having feedback through discussions. When they did analyses on drafts or macro, there was a lot more data so they had more coaching staff and used several different analysis programs. Data analysis could become a weakness if it’s too much, but I learned that when used in proper situations, it could be a big help.
As you said, you experienced many things during the four years being in the LCS. What would be the biggest boon that you gained?
It’s the way of thinking about the game. Rather than injecting all the situations and how to react to them in-game, players need to be able to think flexibly. What I came to think was that we need to blend the LCS’s strengths into LCK’s strengths. I want to use that to make the best team in the league.
You’ll be heading into the spring season as the interim head coach of DRX in place of cvMax. What did you discuss with the team?
I was looking for a team where I would have no regrets and I could prove my ability even if it takes time. When I was first offered the interim head coach position from DRX, I thought it was a great chance. Of course, it could be a poisoned chalice, but it’s a chance to prove my ability.
It’s true that DRX’s current roster looks comparably weaker than the others. That’s why I think it’s a chance to show everything that I have while I lead this team. The players of DRX have great potential. If the answers I suggest to the team this season is absorbed well by the players, I believe they could become a strong team that could aim for Worlds by the summer season.
The spring split is just around the corner. How is the team atmosphere?
The KeSPA Cup was a big help since we were able to find our weakness in basic macro. I’m giving feedback with coach Mu-seong so that their macro could become more solid while maintaining the players’ aggressiveness.
There are many rookies on the DRX roster. At the same time, they have great potential. Who is in the best form currently?
All DRX players have spectacular abilities so there are high expectations for them. Among them, Kingen’s laning ability and his understanding of the team game is improving a lot. He also has patience, decisiveness, and sharpness, so there are high hopes for his future.
Each head coach has playstyles they prefer. You’re taking charge of the team while cvMax will be absent. What did you think about cvMax’s playstyle?
I’ve read an interview of cvMax before. He said, “I give feedback differently to each player. If everyone gets treated with the same carrot and stick, it isn’t well-received even if it’s great feedback”. When I read that interview, I thought he’s a person who has similar values as I do. Each person thinks and reacts differently to situations. Every person has a different approach to problems.
I think a lot about how they would accept what I say. If the players or other coaches have different opinions or have creative ideas, I want to learn from them. That was why in the pat, I wanted to experience several teams. There are things that cvMax and I have in common.
What does your ideal team look like?
A team that could read the flow of the game and makes decisions flexibly. A team where players could speak their minds and encourage each other sincerely. This is the ideal team I have in mind.
What do you expect from the LCK as you’re back after four years?
Unlike before, I don’t think the teams could be clearly divided into strong and weak teams. Many teams have come to the Rift with an enhanced roster to become a strong team. Among them, our team could seem to be lacking a lot. However, I’m confident that I could lead these players well to make them a strong team. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to that process.
Which team are you looking out for the most?
I’d have to say DAMWON Kia. From the KeSPA Cup, I felt that Khan already has great synergy with the team.
Do you have any more comments that you’d like to share?
Rather than changing the big picture drastically, I’m reforming the team and players precisely and in detail. The direction is already set. I think it’s the process of growing properly. The team could look weak for now, but they’re improving steadily, so please be patient and watch how they change. I’d like to thank the DRX and the CEO for giving me this chance.
I’ve been through a lot of crises and critical situations. Through what I’ve learned from that experience, I’ll make DRX into a competent team that could reach Worlds.