During a global pandemic and an era of uncertainty in Overwatch, coaches have steered their ship and kept their crews save
It is the first year that the Overwatch League will honour the best coach of the season, an award that was much needed to give recognition to such a major aspect of this esport. The practice and methods of coaching remain largely hidden behind the scenes, but the impact of great coaching can be felt in the cohesion that teams display, in the mental fortitude they have in tight spots and the numbers they put on the scoreboard. Many teams this season have blown our expectations for them out of the water, outperforming the presumed value of their individual parts by becoming tight-knit units in a unified front against adversity.
This season saw an unprecedented amount of volatility and uncertainty in Overwatch and the world at large, handling hero pools, a global pandemic, cut budgets, curbed travel plans and so much more. During these challenges, some leaders have distinguished themselves in guiding their teams through one of the most challenging periods of their lives. They’ve moulded rosters of young professionals who offered us entertainment and inspiration, helping us stay sane in these trying times.
Hee-won "RUSH" Yun chosen by Sebastian "Seb" Romero
RUSH is the former head coach of Element Mystic, a Korean juggernaut team that won two Contenders titles and an international win at The Gauntlet under his tutelage. Coming into the Overwatch League, RUSH had to turn around a 14th place Paris Eternal with half of its widely dismissed European players still on the roster. Bringing in his trusted EM compatriots into OWL with him, RUSH has managed to coach the best-blended roster since the San Francisco Shock.
Many people believed Paris was incapable of performing without those superstar players early in the season. RUSH proved those doubters wrong, by not only securing those early wins (against noticeable opponents like the Philadelphia Fusion), but by making sure no matter what their reputation was, every player of the Paris Eternal was going to improve and become better. For RUSH, every player has worth, something made apparent by the fact that Paris played every player besides Smex, in the Grand Finals of the Summer Showdown. The coaching staff is the secret to the Eternal’s success, and RUSH deserves full recognition for spearheading their revival.
Park "Crusty" Dae-hee chosen by Joseph "Volamel" Franco
While there are candidates that have sparked up a lot of interest this season in particular, Park "Crusty" Dae-hee still has my vote. Not only is he the mastermind of the San Francisco Shock’s title run in 2019 but he is the leading force in their 2020 defence. That said he has had to mould this roster around the chaotic Hero Pool format. On top of that, his roster changed partway through the season with star players like Jay "sinatraa" Won retiring and Park "Architect" Minho leaving the team.
Through all the uncertainty, and even with all the cards stacked against him, Crusty remains constant. He has continued to push the San Francisco Shock to arguably new heights as the team dominated at the May Melee and maintained their impressive ways with a strong performance at the Summer Showdown. A strong end to the 2020 Overwatch League might not be his magnum opus, but it will solidify him as one of the greats. No one can argue the achievements, no one can hold a candle to how consistent he has been across multiple teams and rosters - he is just the best. Crusty is easily a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and will likely become one of the greatest Overwatch coaches to ever grace the game.
Mike "Packing10" Szklanny chosen by Sascha "Yiska" Heinisch
Even more so than player awards, judging the contribution of a coach proves challenging, with only a few factors of their work available to the public. Therefore, I take issue with the framing of this award, as the limited information doesn’t allow any voter to meaningfully discern between the contributions of a head coach, his general manager and his other staff, as all work takes place behind the scenes. A job title in this league does often not accurately display their real-world contributions. The only sensible solution to me was to give my vote to the entire staff of the team and not just an individual coach.
It is my fundamental belief that the best staff is the one that squeezes the most value out the resources given to them. Even without public numbers on the resources available to each roster, the baseline the Los Angeles Valiant has to work from is very obviously not equal to the likes of the Eternal or the Shock. With three coaches to handle an Overwatch League and a VALORANT team, Mike "Packing10" Szklanny, Mike Schwartz, and their staff have still created a solidly mid-tier team on one of the smallest player budgets in the league. Before the season started, barely anyone thought this was possible and yet this staff performed this little miracle. Lastly, there is no doubt in my mind that the instant this staff was to be given equal resources, they would see equal success to their competitors in this award category.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment and Gamecoach Academy