Last September, Kim “cvMax” Dae-ho joined Kwangdong Freecs as the team’s new head coach for the 2023 season. For cvMax, it is a chance to prove his capabilities after a disappointing report card from his last DRX days.
In an interview with Inven, cvMax shared what he felt over the one-year break. The way he spoke reminded me of the many quotes that he left from the early days of his coaching career. As we sat down, cvMax told his story using unique metaphors and examples.
You’re returning as a head coach after your break. How did you get to join Kwangdong Freecs?
I signed with the Loud Corporation agency, and they contacted several teams to find a spot for me. Kwangdong Freecs gave a positive response, and when we met, I felt that our thoughts and goals were similar, so I signed with them.
What did you think about Kwangdong Freecs before joining the team?
The individual prowess of the team is alright, but the results they output seemed weak compared to the materials. I thought, ‘maybe they don’t have good enough communication or trust in each other?’ I felt that they don’t trust each other in-game.
Kwangdong Freecs’ macro was weak over the past year — they collapse after 25 minutes. When you coached Griffin, you showed that you excel in macro and teamfight organization. Maybe Kwangdong Freecs expect that from you?
I’m confident in raising the team synergy output, which was what the team thought they lacked. I want to make the maximum output the five players can make. However, the contracts of all five players will be expired this year. It hasn’t been decided if we will go with the same roster. Regardless of the roster, I’ll make sure that the five players that play next year can create the best synergy possible.
I think you might be anxious since you signed before the roster was fixed. Is there a player that you really want to keep?
Kiin. If we can play together, I’ll be able to rely a lot on him.
For sure, Kiin is Kwangdong Freecs’ franchise star. You’ve played against him from another team. As a former top laner yourself, how do you evaluate Kiin?
When Kiin is in his best condition, he’s an ideal six-tool player. He’s a flawless top laner.
You know, when saying someone is a six-tool player, it’s often used to talk up an average player that doesn’t stand out in any aspect. That doesn’t apply to Kiin. I’ve watched him since when I was coaching Griffin, and when he was in his best condition, I felt several times that he was complete and perfect.
If you are able to have Kiin on your roster for next year, would you expect more from him compared to other players?
I don’t want to put him under pressure. Everyone expects so much from him, it feels that he has to do really well to seem normal. What I’m aiming to do is make a team that can win through any of the five players.
When a team’s macro or shotcalls aren’t good, usually there isn’t a player who can lead the players in the game, or the players don’t express their opinions strong enough. In your experience, who do you think should have the strongest voice?
Usually, I think it’s the jungler. The jungler has to have good synergy with all other roles — the top and jungle, mid jungle, bot-support jungle — whatever the mission, the jungler is mostly there.
However, if you go into detail, it gets complicated. According to the game’s phase, according to a champion’s power spike, or maybe having a quick tempo comp like LeBlanc-Lee Sin or Renekton-Nidalee, and so on, the main voice of the team changes.
I mostly seek playing naturally rather than designating one person as the main shotcaller. It’s best when players making shotcalls feel the need, than teaching them to make the calls. That way, the main source of the shotcalls always changes.
Some players find it difficult to make shotcalls. For example, players that don’t talk much tend not to talk much during the game as well. Have you worked with such players?
Not as much as you’d think. I usually design the shotcalls so that even the quietest players can make shotcalls — make them feel the necessity of showing their voice. When this is applied well, I haven’t seen any player that doesn’t make shotcalls when it’s needed.
What do you mean by “designing the shotcalls”? How do you make the players feel the necessity?
Shotcalls have to be made naturally, and when there are shotcalls, it needs to show the situation and emotion. For example, I tell the players that calm shotcalls are wrong when the situation is urgent.
The horn of a car is designed to give stress to people who hear it. That way, the people who hear it are warned so they can be careful.
Let’s say we’re playing a fast-tempo comp like Renekton-Nidalee, and the opponent is hitting the Rift Herald. It could be a matter of winning or losing if we lose that Herald, and in that situation, if the shotcalls are calm, it’s just to make an excuse — just to say that “I did call it.” When in such a situation, the shotcall’s tempo, volume, and repetition must be all different.
It’s been two years since you left your last team. During your break, you would have thought a lot. What did you feel during that time?
At first, I wanted to rest. I thought it was right to take a break unless it’s a great offer. After resting for two or three months, I thought that I was doing nothing for too long. I got really lazy since I wasn’t required to do anything. I was living alone and able to set my schedule as I wanted to, which made me even lazier. I always knew I had a weak mentality, but during the break, I found out that it was much weaker than most other people.
Knowing your own weakness could be a way to mature.
Usually, it is, but not for me. When I knew that I was weak, I got more generous about myself — I kind of laid down my guilt, using my weakness as a way to forgive myself for being lazy.
One day, I really wanted to improve myself, so I started hiking. I really hated hiking before, but now, I go once a week. Whenever I go, I want to run back home because it’s so exhausting, but when I see others who live their life meaningfully, I get thankful that I can survive even though I lived my life as I wished.
It’s sort of a way of training my mentality. Right now, there is no one that motivates me through the carrot and stick, so I wreck myself really easily. When I get a bit lazy, that turns into a vicious cycle.
Hiking really helped. When I don’t exercise, I lose a lot of weight, but now, I’ve gained weight, and I’ve become much healthier.
You would be quite determined since you’re back from a long break. In your career, you were recognized for your ability as the head coach, but you’ve also had really bad results. How was it different when things went well and when things didn’t?
In DRX, I wasn’t able to participate in the spring season due to my suspension. That suspension lasted in the summer too. When things weren’t prepared, it was difficult to make changes.
People think that what the coaching staff does is draw a picture of something temporary and impromptu, like the draft, but that’s so different from what really goes on. What a team shows in competitions is something they’ve built from six months ago. The results in the summer are all about how much practice and team synergy were cumulated since the spring season. I wasn’t included in that process, so that’s regretful, and I feel it’s a bit unfair.
I worked hard with the new friends that joined the team, but it was difficult since things weren’t aligned with the direction I was used to, and what we were aiming for was different. I learned through that experience. I was arrogant, and I realized that there were things that I could and couldn’t do.
Recalling your previous interviews, it seems that you have a very strong ego about your ability.
I guess the first start was too good. When I coached Griffin, there were so many good players, so I thought whatever I touched turned into gold. The players I met in DRX also were young and with much potential, but I wasn’t good enough to mold them properly. I learned from that experience, so I will do better in Kwangdong Freecs.
Do you have any ideas for Kwangdong Freecs’ 2023 roster?
I have plans in my head, but I can’t do anything yet. We need to wait until all the contracts are expired. There are even plans B and C in case something goes wrong.
The ideal team I plan is always similar — the share of the task of all five players has to be even. It’s a structure connected organically without having one player sticking out too much. However, since there can be obstacles on the way, so I prepared plans B and C.
For Kwangdong Freecs, all five starting members’ contracts are to be expired. Since the stove league hasn’t even begun, I think it’s too early to discuss the roster.
What’s your goal for ‘23 Kwangdong Freecs?
The first and foremost is the team’s results. I want to reach Worlds.
There could be people that are your fans and people that don’t like you reading this interview. Do you have any comments to say to both sides?
Obviously, I’m thankful to those who cheer for me. Whether they like me or hate me, the word “cvMax” is in their heads. Thanks to those people paying attention to what I do, I can exchange that for money to buy food or clothes and survive.
I can accept anything if it isn’t too insulting or malicious. I’ll try to make a team that fans could be interested in and worth paying attention to. If you pay attention, I’ll work hard to meet your expectations.