On July 15, T1 announced that they’re firing Yang “Daeny” Dae-in and Lee “Zefa” Jae-min who led the team from the 2021 LCK Spring Split. Their spot will be filled by coaches Son “Stardust” Seok-hee and Kim “Moment” Ji-hwan.
Later this day, T1 had an online press conference to answer questions from the media about parting ways with the coaching staff. In the press conference, general manager Choi “Polt” Seong-hoon spoke of the reasons. He mentioned multiple times that the decision was the best decision the team could make to get better results.
The following is a full translation of the press conference.
How did you end up firing Daeny and Zefa in the middle of the season?
As the GM of the T1 LoL Team, I spend a lot of time with the players. I’ve been always thinking as I talk to the players and the coaching staff, and I always thought about how I should lead the team for the players to effectively practice, and show a better performance on the stage. I’ve been thinking for a long time.
I’ve been listening to the player’s thoughts, and based on that, and with my previous experiences as a professional esports player, we came to a conclusion that taking such action would make a better result. Regardless of a team doing well or not, I think there is room for improvement for everyone. Thinking of that and looking at Spring Split and Summer Split, Daeny and Zefa did their best and they are great people, but for a better result, I thought going for our own ways will be better. Based on this, we came to this decision.
Didn’t you have any worries about putting pressure on the players by firing the coaching staff with 8 games left in the Summer Split?
I know many people are expressing their worries. I’ve been taking that into consideration seriously. Of course, the players are the most important. All of the players on the roster are important. However, taking everything into consideration, we decided that such a decision would end with a better result.
There are rumors going around the communities about a clash between the sub players and the coaching staff. Is this true?
I sometimes check the user community, but cannot check every day. I am not sure exactly which problem it is, but as far as I know, there wasn’t such a big issue to call it a “clash”.
You said you listened to players’ opinions. Does that mean the players agreed with firing the coach?
To know if players agreed or not, I have to ask them directly. I did not ask because such questions can affect the players negatively. We made decisions based on the situations.
Stardust and Moment will lead the team for the rest of the season. Do you think this choice will make a better result?
Answering just based on the final result, yes. I’ve been considering the process, I saw how Stardust and Moment lead the players, and I knew the relationship between the players and the coaching staff. Considering all of that, we thought this decision will end in a better result.
You’ve said “our” decision, and “our” observations. Who is included in “we”? Are you the final decision-maker in this process?
“We” means the organization (team). If you ask if I am the final decision-maker, I am the GM and I do have a lot of power to make a decision. But you’d agree that this is not something that I can easily decide on my own. I’ve been observing and sending my opinions enough. I have discussed this with higher-ups and came to this conclusion.
There’s a rumor that the management engaged with the coaching staff’s decisions on the roster heavily. Is this true?
I am not sure what “heavily” means, but I gave a lot, most of the power to Daeny — almost everything. Considering myself as “management”, I talked a lot with Daeny. I listened to his opinions and I told him about my own opinions. In that regard, in a way, I did engage in their decisions.
What do T1 players think about the 10 player roster?
Every player takes it differently. It is difficult to say which specific players had which thought. Listening to them, there were both positive and negative factors. Now that we checked these parts and how the players think, we will try to improve by increasing the positive factors and decreasing the negative factors.
Daeny and Zefa have won the Worlds Championship. Do you have any reasons to think that Stardust and Moment are better?
I never said they are better. I will make a comparison to League of Legends. Having 5 great players on the team does not guarantee that the team will end up great. Of course, the individuals may be outstanding, but that does not mean their synergy will work well. In the same way, this does not mean Stardust and Moment are worse. I’ve spent a lot of time with them and rather than to say that we’ve made this decision because they’re great, we made this decision thinking of the overall results and the future.
Which parts specifically did you think this decision will make a better result?
It is similar to the question I answered before. There is no guarantee that 5 great players make a great team. Based on these parts, we thought this will make a better result.
For a “better decision”, did you consider the short-term success of 2021 or the long-term success?
I’ve considered both. I’ve considered both long-term and short-term.
Only a week ago, Daeny had an interview showing his eagerness to advance to Worlds. Did you talk enough with Daeny and Zefa before you made the decision?
I am not sure what you want to know by “talk enough”. The current situation is that the organization made this decision, and if I think about whether or not I had enough discussions with Daeny and Zefa, I had enough discussions about the previous part. We’ve spent a lot of time together, and I talked a lot with Daeny. I think I’ve had enough discussions whenever new situations pop up.
Is there a plan for a new head coach?
For now, Stardust and Moment will lead the players. We do not have plans for a new coaching staff for now.
In a recent interview, players talked strongly about team play and in-game calls. Did this issue affect the decision?
Everything I saw affected the decision. The players’ practice, life, etc. I can’t say that that didn’t affect the decision at all. As I’ve said, this was not based on small parts. We looked at the bigger picture, thought of what would make a better result for the team. Considering all that, we thought this would bring more positive results to the team and ended up making this decision.
For two straight years, T1 has terminated the contract with the head coach early. Some fans are saying that the problem’s with the management, not the head coach. What do you think?
I think it’s hard to say it’s 100% someone’s fault. If there was a clear problem with one side when the contract was terminated early, that could be 100%. However, if this is not the case, I don’t think it’s right to say it’s the fault of one side. It’s not a matter of who’s right or wrong. The decision was based on what would bring a better result.
You said that you want to bring a better result to the team multiple times. Do you mean the team’s performance or is it on a broader scale?
It’s on a broader scale, but within that, T1’s results are obviously included. However, we take many other things into consideration. We also consider how to make a better environment for the players when they practice, how they could feel more comfortable, how they would be less stressed, etc. And how we will lead the organization. The results are clearly one of the important factors, but we considered many other parts as well.
You had explained that this decision was made after consulting higher-ups. For you personally, do you agree that firing the coaches TODAY was the best time?
There is an error to the question. This decision was not made today. This decision was made after having thorough discussions over a long time. This was communicated to the players two days ago. It’s only that the official announcement came today. If you ask if this was the best time, it is difficult to say “yes”, but we wanted to make the decision as soon as possible before it got too late.
Recently, Gumayusi appealed that he was having a hard time. What was the problem within the team?
This question is also very difficult for me to answer here. Of course, players are a bit in a mess, and there are players who are quite confused. Regardless, the players did their best to prepare for today’s match, even if the environment was not the best. If I discuss the internal problems here, it could become harder for the players, so I don’t think I can discuss that here.
You said that you’ve been consistently talking about the termination — does that mean Daeny and Zefa were aware of the situation that their contract might be terminated?
I can’t answer this clearly. From the GM’s perspective, a good result is important. If Daeny and Zefa thought that their contract might be terminated, it could have a negative effect on the team. As the GM, it’s my job to keep them from feeling that. It depends on the situation, but that’s how contracts work. They could end early.
If you fired them later, or not at all, what were the problems to consider?
It’s on the same line with what I’ve been answering. I can’t answer what the internal problem was. Apart from what the problem was and what decisions were made based on the problems, again, Daeny and Zefa did their best and they are great people. Similar to the example I had, considering if this is the best decision for a better result, we came to the conclusion that this is a better decision.
What’s T1’s goal for 2021?
T1’s 2021 goal is, as I’ve said before, our players are working their best for a victory today and of course, a better result afterward. For now, our immediate goal is to win the Summer Split, advance to the World Championship, and finish with a good result.
After kkOma, there have been a lot of questions regarding the coaching staff since last year. What is the type of talent T1 wants? Is the tournament result the most important?
I think tournament results are one of the most important factors. There can be different opinions on whether or not tournament results are everything. Even if we ask pro players, some players may think tournament results are the most important, but there could be players who might say otherwise. The role of the coaching staff is to lead the players. Coaches who see how the players feel and lead the players well is the type of talent we want.
You said that the decision has been made with the higher-ups, who are these higher-ups exactly? Please specify who was involved in this decision.
The person I discussed with is, as many people know, Joe Marsh. Joe Marsh was the person that I had a lot of discussions about this decision.
Many fans are worried because changing the coaches with 8 games left in the Summer Split is unprecedented. Do you have a message for those worried fans?
I recognize those problems. We took everything into consideration before making this decision. The players are working hard, even today, to win. I would appreciate it if you continue to give them a lot of encouragement and support.
You said that you’ve communicated with the players about this on Tuesday. Who led the scrim matches?
After Tuesday, Stardust and Moment have been in the lead.
What reason did Joe Marsh say for firing Daeny and Zefa?
As it is the organization’s decision, it is the same as what I said earlier. Joe Marsh’s thoughts are similar to mine.
Did Daeny and Zefa lead the scrims until Monday?
Yes, Daeny and Zefa did until Monday.
How did Daeny and Zefa react to the announcement?
It seemed that Daeny and Zefa were quite frustrated as they were notified suddenly. The players were also quite surprised because this hasn’t been discussed with them at all. However, the players are doing their best to stay calm and they’re doing their best in scrims.
You said firing the coaching staff is for a better result. If this decision ends up being wrong, who takes responsibility?
I can’t answer this in one sentence. For example, if this ends up as a good decision, if you were to ask who did well, wouldn’t everyone share it? It’s hard to answer who would take responsibility for a wrong decision.
In the process of the decision-making, how much did you express your opinions? How much did it influence the decision?
I don’t think the influence I had in this situation wasn’t small. As much as I’ve spent a lot of time with the players closely, I don’t think my influence was weak.
From your observation, do you think the players were under a lot of stress under Daeny and Zefa?
Both coaches worked really hard. This result came from various reasons, but the players are doing their best in this situation. I don’t think I can answer that question, and I hope you don’t ask about this to me or the players.
As far as we know, SKT and Comcast co-works on the League of Legends team. Can we take this decision as one made from the Comcast side rather than the SKT side?
I don’t think I can talk about this. I can say that I discussed with Joe Marsh and this decision came after that.
What are the plans for the team in the future?
I’ve been trying to help the teams of T1 in various areas. I think I’ll be able to support them more if I spend more time together and get to know them better. I don’t really go to the arenas or the team booths that often, but I’d like to be there with them if I’m of any help. The new coaching staff as well as the players are working hard, and they’re working hard to win today. Please cheer for them a lot.