After a brief stint as a commentator/analyst on the LCK, Jeong “NoFe” No-chul, will be returning to coaching; this time, as the head coach for Invictus Gaming in the LPL.
IG finished in 9th place with a 9-7 record in the 2020 LPL Spring split; for an organization with such a history of dominance in LoL Esports, their Spring split results were disappointing to say the least. Their only shot of making it to Worlds this year is to either become Summer champions, or have enough circuit points to play in the qualifiers.
Despite finding success early in his coaching career with ROX Tigers, the results that he produced with the teams in Korea weren’t so great. Despite having separate ambitions as a commentator, his passions as a coach still burns fiercely. Even with the fact that NoFe was joining IG in the middle of the season, he shared in an interview with Inven on just how confident he is for the future.
You’ve returned to coaching. How did it all come to be?
Early this year, I was originally in talks with IG. We had conversations after conversations, exploring options, but those conversations went on for too long. My original plan for this year was to join the LCK caster’s desk, so when the time came to decide, I joined the LCK as a commentator.
Originally, I was planning to at least stay with the LCK for a year. However, an opportunity arose to be able to talk with IG; they’ve offered me a great contract, so I changed my mind. Not only did I really want to work with TheShy and Rookie, my wife is friends with TheShy’s mom [laughter]; the talks went very smoothly.
Watching the matches on the sidelines made me really want to jump back into the heat of everything. Also, one of my biggest regrets was failing to win Worlds, so I decided to give it another go.
Were you always thinking about joining the LPL? Or were you just in the right place at the right time?
After I left HLE, the desire to become a caster overshadowed the desire to work with a team. To shed more light on what happened at the time; I had three offers from China, and IG was the one I liked the most. However, my final goal is to become a caster; it’s been a dream of mine ever since I retired from pro play.
Coaching was something that I unexpectedly started. I started coaching with KOO Tigers, and the original plan was to be the head coach for the team until the team became stable. At the time, KOO TV was planning to host its own LoL league, so I was preparing myself to become a caster.
Despite the bumps in the road, you did officially debut as an LCK commentator this Spring.
I gave up on coaching, so if I didn’t reach out to LCK first, I felt that I’d never get my opportunity as a caster. After talking with LCK, I was able to cast this Spring split.
You’ve received a lot of praise ever since your guest appearances as a caster during Worlds many years ago. Would you consider yourself as the talkative type?
I don’t exactly remember when I really wanted to become a caster. I think watching CloudTemplar motivated me to become one. It was around the time when I really had to think hard about my future. It was hard for me to go back to school, so I thought about my options that were available to me at the time. I learned a lot from CloudTemplar, and felt I would have a lot of fun working in the esports scene for a long time.
A coaching career wasn’t completely out of the question, but based on the hardships that the coaches went through during my player days, I didn’t know if I was up for the challenge. Furthermore, if I ever met a stubborn player like me, I knew I was going to struggle [laughter].
Tell us about how you’ve prepared for the LCK cast.
For starters, I’ve watched a lot of LCK games. I’ve also reached out to mutuals for advice, and I’ve done a lot of analysis on teams, but I think I was terrible on my first day on the desk. Compared to when I was a guest commentator, the difference was night and day. My first casting experience was in 2014, during OGN Club Masters; I received a lot of criticism in the beginning, and the start of this Spring split made me reminisce of then.
However, I received a lot of help from a lot of people. Especially Lee Dong-jin, who was my co-caster in the LCK CL, who watched a lot of my casts and gave me a lot of feedback. Caster Jun, SEONG K, and Kim Dong-jun, also gave me a lot of feedback on my casts as well.
To be frank, when you were working with a team, it felt like you had a different image from being this neighborhood friend-like image that you’ve shown on the LCK. How would you describe your personality?
I’m very shy around strangers. Sometimes, when I meet people for the first time, they think I’m mad or something’s wrong. Even when I was a player, fans sometimes misunderstood me in that way. That’s completely not true. I do talk a lot when I become close with someone [laughter]. I think the corner that I do on the LCK, ‘LCK Commentary’, with Yoon Subin, gave me a great image to the viewers at home, so I’m pretty happy about it.
While I’m sure that there are different things that make the job of a caster and a coach hard in their own ways, I do believe that your experience as a caster will serve to be beneficial to your work as a coach. Thoughts?
Definitely. While I don’t think it changed the way I understand the game as a whole, I’m definitely more confident in finding the details. I learned a lot of new things as a caster. I’m definitely more subjective in the opinions that I form as a coach for a team; as a caster, I try to view everything more objectively, so I learned how to see the finer details about the game.
I’d assume that there were clashes in opinion with other casters as well?
There’s no clear answers in LoL. Everyone analyzes the game through their unique perspective and their thoughts on how the game should be played. In order to commentate the game from as many viewpoints as possible, if there was ever something that I thought of differently from others, I tried to explain that other perspective of the game.
Let’s talk about IG. The popularity is definitely there for them, but right now, they’re not the best.
During Spring, due to casting in both LCK and LCK CL, I wasn’t able to watch IG’s games live. When it was decided that I’ll be joining IG, I’ve been rewatching all of their games. I think the biggest issue with their underperformance is due to the meta shift. The playstyle that fits them the best is the meta during the 2018-19 season. Starting in 2020 Summer, the meta shifted to focus more around dragon stacks, and macro around jungle pathing, so it was very different from IG’s colors as a team. Individually, I still believe that the players are the best in the world.
You started off at the top, with ROX and EDG. Can I presume that you’ve struggled a lot when you were with Afreeca Freecs and HLE?
It would be a lie if I didn’t say things were tough. I felt like everything that I was doing was going downhill, because the teams were doing poorly. I’ve tasted failure, but I’ve also learned a lot; in the end, it was all about mindset. I’ll apply all I’ve learned from my failures to improving IG for the Summer split and beyond.
As you’ve been with many other teams in the past, how is this time different from back then?
I think that by the time I finish my quarantine and really start practicing with the team, the Summer split will be just around the corner. I didn’t work with the team during the Spring split, so while there will be bumps in synergizing the team, I’ve also learned a lot of my shortcomings during my tenure on my previous teams.
My mindset changed a bit after EDG. During the time I joined EDG, they were known to have a very strict team environment, and I’ve experienced such rigidness when I joined. However, not only did I have a lot of time to have conversations with the players, there wasn’t a hierarchy between the players and the coaches.
To be honest, I’ve heard horror stories about how the players act arrogant and outright ignore the coaches, but fortunately, EDG was very structured. When I returned to Korea after EDG, I tried my best in becoming more close with my players.
I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my tenure with Afreeca and HLE. This will be the first time as a head coach to apply all I’ve learned from then. I’m planning to apply all I’ve learned about the game as a caster as well with IG, so although I’m racing against the clock, I’m incredibly confident.
Lastly, as the newest head coach for IG, is there anything you’d like to say?
I think my fans will worry a lot. The results I produced in the last two years have been terrible. On top of that, IG are not in their top form. Still, I’m very excited and hopeful about what the future awaits, and I’m very confident about it all, so be ready. I’ll do my best to produce great results, so please send me and IG your support.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports