Peter Dun was Evil Geniuses first signing of the offseason preceding the 2021 League of Legends Championship Series season, but the head coach was the last of all players and staff to arrive due to visa issues.
A few days after his arrival in North America, Peter Dun spoke to Inven Global about how coaching remotely changed his responsibilities withing EG's system, adjusting to a traditional Head Coach role through quarantine, and the potential he saw in both Evil Geniuses' LCS roster as well as the North American talent pool as a whole.
You've hard your fair share of having to coach remotely. You weren't even on the same continent, and now you're in quarantine. What's the process been like?
I haven't been what you'd call a traditional head coach of the team remotely. We found that the difference in timezone and the lag made it extremely difficult for me to lead review, so I've been doing a lot of notes, feeding notes to Artemis and Mash and they've been leading reviews and being on stage with the team. I've been doing a lot of 1-on-1 coaching, mostly with Jiizuke, a little bit with Deftly.
Now that I'm in the US, all the problems seem to have been fixed. Obviously, I'm looking forward to meeting the guys as soon as I'm out of quarantine. But it's been difficult. We've had some up and down moments and not being able to be there or have a major impact on the team has definitely been stressful.
I assume the plan is for you to be more of a traditional head coach now that you're in the States, right?
For sure. My role would be to be on stage eventually with the team, lead scrims, etc. But I think the head coach role EG have envisaged for me is not just about running the LCS team, but also the Academy and Amateur teams [...] to make sure that we're teaching the people [there] the same things as we're teaching people in the LCS, so that one day in the future, they can make the transition up.
The team you coached previously, MAD Lions, was also known for developing and harnessing young talent. Do you think that your experience on your previous teams is helping you in this regard?
Oh, for sure. A lot of the credit for building such a strong LCS project has to go with the starting staff lead by Empyre, who is our chief scout. He's the one who put a lot of these people into place. In the off-season, I was given a short list of two-three people per position to make a call on, but it was very obvious from the players put in front of me that there was a lot of good work done there and there was clearly a lot of talent in North America that the outside perspective doesn't necessarily see.
In Europe, people tend to be dismissive of NA. There's always the argument that the solo queue environment is too bad, that there's no talent in the region. And I can see already — and [last] weekend showed with the success of Dignitas in particular — that this talent exists. It's just important to go out there and find it.
I'm very happy with the scouting crew in EG to identify the diamonds in the rough. My job here is that it's developed properly. It's a key part to EG's long-term project.
You were the first officially announced signee [for the new season]. Did you have a direct handpicking the team, even though you were an ocean away?
Yes, I was involved with building the LCS roster from the start. It was clear very early that we'd be building around Svenskeren. We were also made aware early in the off-season that Impact would be available, so these two pieces seemed very easy to build around.
Jiizuke was somebody whom I've admired in Europe when I was working with him. He had a slightly rough 2019 due to illness, but in 2018, when Caps and Perkz were the most known mids, Jiizuke was definitely matching up with Caps and overperforming versus Perkz. Obviously, Perkz had a very strong Worlds, but in the LEC, I feel Jiizuke got the better of him.
We felt the system that EG had in place in 2020 didn't really give Jiizuke the opportunity to shine. He's a player who has very clearly defined strengths and weaknesses but he needs to feel he has structure and the support of his team to make the high-risk plays that he needs to make to be successful.
Sometimes they're not going to work, but I don't want to coach Jiizuke like, "You can only play a control mage every game, just sit mid and farm". With a player like Jiizuke who is very free spirit, I want to give him the flexibility to be able to go and express himself.
Once we knew we had these three pieces on the top side, we began looking at options for our bot lane. IgNar was one of the best performing supports and had a very successful 2020, so he was somebody very high on our list. We looked at a number of options in the ADC role, but in the end of the day, we felt that Deftly had a very strong performance in Academy.
At the time, when many people were pressuring EG on the outside to look at options such as Sneaky, Cody Sun, all of these ADCs with more established brands, it wasn't very hard to make the choice for Deftly. We knew the EG system we wanted to put in place, and he was one of the people that we chose to step up. I saw people put us in power rankings as low as 6th or 7th and I don't think this is a justified position for a roster of this caliber.
Obviously, we're 6th right now, tied 5th [laughs] [EG's position changed to tied 4th since this interview was taken — Ed.], so I feel we have a lot to prove going into the second half of the season. But it's worth saying that we performed really well against the so-called "stronger" teams in the league, and we had a couple of losses to some of the less fashionable ones. [laughs] We have to fix that.
I really like how the team is playing aggressively now. I feel in 2020 Spring, we had an EG that lived or died by Jiizuke, because they didn't always get on board with his plays, but when they did it worked. And in Summer, they completely shied away from that, benching Jiizuke. He was second All-Pro mid and then didn't play for the rest of the year.
Were there things that you saw about how the roster was handled that made you want to rebuild around Svenskeren and by extension Jiizuke? To get more mileage out of them?
Yes, but it was more the mentality shift. I don't want to say I'm a coach that runs a more democratic structure, because that's not true. But I do believe in giving my players a lot of freedom and flexibility to experiment, both in scrims and on stage.
There's a thin line between inting and genius, right? [laughs] On MAD Lions, that's a thing we did a lot. We had scrim days that we called "limit testing days".
These are the kind of days where you go 0/4 in lane, but it doesn't matter. You're not allowed to surrender, you have to play from a deficit. But you have to go into limit test and when we go into review, I'm not going to say you messed up. It's a limit testing day, so we'd go back and see what we learned from this game.
And there are some days that are more about structured learning. And on those days, there would be more pushback.
I remember the first day I saw this EG team scrim, Jiizuke went 13/0/1 and then 0/7/2 in the second, and 12/2/2 in the third. [laughs] I was like, "Ha, I've seen this before". But as long as he has more of the games that he had against TL [in week 3] or against Cloud9 [in week 2] and fewer of the limit-testing Lucian tower-diving against Dignitas the better, but you obviously can't have one without the other.
The difference between this year and the last is that he will have a lot more flexibility to play this way. To be honest, I think for most of the Spring season until the final best-of-5 with FlyQuest, EG were the second-best team in NA. But then they had a bad best-of-5 and in the Summer Split, things went to pieces.
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