Part 2 of the interview with Harsha explores the Outlaws era of his career.
The Houston Outlaws had a rough go of it during the first three seasons of the Overwatch League, with only occasional glimmers of hope shining through to their fans. In season 3, they brought in their new head coach Harsha Bandi who changed the profile of the team in some ways, though as you will find out in this interview, not to the degree that he would’ve liked to. While the first part of the interview focused on Harsha’s career before joining the Outlaws, this time we are going to illuminate his history - how he got to join the Outlaws, what went right and wrong during the third season, and how they’ve looked to amend those mistakes, bringing in fresh talent both on the coaching staff and the roster side of things.
Because we know that committing an hour of your time to an interview you don’t know if you will enjoy, we’ve summarised the most important talking points in this too long; didn’t watch summary. We still recommend watching the interview for the full context of Harsha’s answers and how he arrived at the conclusions that we shared.
Getting with the Outlaws
- Harsha says his final decision was between becoming the head coach for Outlaws and the General Manager for Paris Eternal, working together with Bumhoon "NineK" Kim as head coach
- The reasons for taking the Outlaws job were him being born and raised in Houston, was told promising things about the team, and wanted an opportunity to prove himself
- Under Immortals Gaming Club ownership, Harsha says the team wasn’t allocating the resources they had for the Outlaws in the smartest ways
- Harsha was very disappointed with how the last off-season went as he gave the organisation a long list of, in his opinion, top tier free agents he was looking at, and he was given a lot of reasons why they couldn’t sign them which felt odd
- Some of the signings that were made weren’t told to Harsha ahead of time, with two different roster-building philosophies present on the team
- Harsha had input on Seung-soo "Jecse" Lee, Jung-keun "Rapel" Kim, Tae-hong "MekO" Kim, and also agreed with the signing of João Pedro "Hydration" Goes Telles
The players Harsha was looking at pre-season 3
- Harsha wanted to talk to Kai "Kai" Collins after seeing his scrims
- Sang-min "Myunb0ng" Seo and Ki-cheol "Cr0ng" Nam as a deal, but Boston Uprising came in too early
- Had to choose between MekO and Cr0ng, with him thinking Cr0ng had a higher peak, but he hadn’t played in America, and he felt that MekO was still one of the best off-tanks in the league which he still believes
- Brice "FDGod" Monsçavoir was tested extensively, but the budget didn’t allow for it because their budget was mismanaged before the new ownership in Beasley came in
- To Harsha, the team felt like a team that would mesh well together, though he doesn’t want to excuse his lack of making the team cohesive
- Harsha thinks his biggest strength is scouting and he felt that he didn’t get to do that for the first team he was in charge of was disappointing to him
What happened in season 3?
- They did well in scrims in pre-season before Mei/McCree came in
- Harsha thinks he made big mistakes in their rotation on the flex support position
- In his opinion, Harsha thinks that team performances fluctuated pretty massively for many teams
- While Houston started out with an easy strength of schedule, their home stretch was hard with their form being bad at the start and better in the later stages
- Initially, they wanted Shane "Rawkus" Flaherty on flanky maps and Jung-keun "Rapel" Kim on straight forward ones, but realised quickly that wasn’t going to work. Harsha thinks he should’ve just made the call to play Rawkus because Ana was meta and his calling was better
- Harsha was happy with Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin’s performance, just couldn’t play him for personal reasons in the first part of the season
- Hydration was a more consistent communicator than Austin "Muma" Wilmot and was easily coachable, with Muma also having wrist issues throughout the season
- Overwatch League teams weren’t told about hero pools until two weeks into the season
What are the Outlaws cooking in season 4?
- Outlaws wanted to build a marketable team that can win in Overwatch League with Western players
- The staff had been independently thinking about bringing Jacob "JAKE" Lyon back as a long-shot chance, and Matt "coolmatt" Iorio worked hard on it
- Harsha could see that Hydration could see playtime on Orisa in a double tank meta, but he’s focusing on DPS for now
- JAKE is currently very focused on coaching, but if the opportunity arises he’ll play
The new recruits
- Myung-heum "JJANGGU" Cho is individually gifted, not super vocal but has good game sense. Harsha compares him to Myeong-hwan "smurf" Yoo
- Enrique "Joobi" Triana is a green but smart and vocal player, getting him up to speed is a priority. Harsha says that a lot of teams were looking at him
- Harsha thinks that Joobi is up for having to play flex support, with Baptiste being one of his most played ladder heroes and him currently grinding Brigitte
- William "Crimzo" Hernandez was really solid in tryouts, and he was said to be very easy to play with as well
- Harsha says that as far as he’s aware MekO only received a tryout by the Outlaws, which baffled him considering Harsha thought MekO did very well during the season and is still a strong player
- Min-jun "PIGGY " Shin stood out during Grand Finals scrims according to Jaewon "Junkbuck" Choi
- PIGGY gapped other off-tanks in trials and stood out as having an incredible Sigma and even a very good Zarya
- Retaining Dante "Danteh" Cruz was a very important focus this season. He tested free agency but decided to stick with the Outlaws
- Harsha says they are happy with the team they built in the end
- He highlights that the reason why the community often hears stories of players deciding between another team and Outlaws is because a lot of good players strongly considered their vision
- Harsha says the Outlaws want to be a team that fans can resonate with while still expecting to win every single game they watch
- The Outlaws wants to flesh out their content strategy and bring a lot more to the table
- Harsha thinks that players have to see the point of view that during a time in which business is struggling, they need to provide value outside the server too
You can also check out the first part of the interview in which Harsha talks about the reasons for Bumper’s vanishing from the world stage, the struggle the internal struggle of the RunAway Titans, working under his former head coaches Crusty and Sephy, and more.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment