The Best Pro League of Legends Coaches in the LEC

by in League of Legends | Apr, 24th 2020

Listing the best League of Legends coaches in the LEC, on paper, is a load of fun. In reality, however, it’s a nightmarish undertaking. There have been so many exceptional coaches and leaders over the years that it’s downright impossible not to omit someone. That’s the first problem, and you could argue that it’s the less important one. The hardest thing is that we never truly know the inner workings of a team. We don’t know who does what exactly (and how well), which means we can never objectively judge and say who’s good and who isn’t.

We only see the result, paired with what we can gather from podcasts, player opinions, and media. That’s not a negligible amount of information, but it can still be deceiving. Take, for instance, former Splyce head coach Hadrien “Duke” Forestier. For a good majority of 2019, he was hailed as one of the best League of Legends coaches in all of Europe, and the fact that he led Splyce to Worlds (and subsequently the Knockout Stage) gave credence to such an opinion. We always knew Splyce had a layered, highly capable coaching staff, but Duke was the man on stage, leading the charge.

Once 2019 was over, however, Duke signed for Team Vitality. A Frenchman leading a French esports organization sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Well, despite his presumed knowledge and leadership, Team Vitality finished in tenth place. Is Duke solely to blame? Of course not. Many parameters affect a team’s performance. Still, we didn’t see them improve over the regular season, nor did they grow in any way, shape, or form — something that has to happen if a team is being led the right way.

Maybe Duke had better players to work with back in 2019 which, by proxy, yielded better results. Maybe he had a more capable coaching staff to help out. We’ll never know. He went from being the runner-up for the Coach of the Split award to tenth place.

This is just one example that goes to show how little information we have, and how a head coach is often only as strong as the people around him. Analysts, sports psychologists, nutritionists, solo queue scouts, etc. There are so many moving pieces and we rarely get to see them in action — which doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Best League of Legends Coaches | The Criteria

What constitutes a great coach? Is it game knowledge? A deep understanding of the game and its many intricate layers? Perhaps it’s a stern hand and the ability to inspire? It’s a mix of everything. Their job is incredibly layered and complex, but it also allows for a lot of expression. A great coach doesn’t have to be a jack of all trades — they have their strengths and weaknesses, much like the players they’re guiding. What they potentially lack in-game knowledge, they can certainly make up in leadership and vice versa.

A great coach is someone who can understand the reality of being an esports player. Someone who “gets” what these young adolescents are going through. You can’t play a video game for fifteen hours straight each day and not go through a couple of unique internal processes. They understand the struggle, the pressure to perform when hundreds of thousands of people are watching — cheering them on or, conversely, awaiting their downfall.

Playing at the highest of levels is immensely more challenging than most people realize. One misclick can haunt you for the rest of your days. It can be the difference between victory and defeat, between a hefty prize pool that can change your life, or an early exit.

A great coach understands what his players are going through even before they understand it themselves. It is a role that requires maturity, experience, and the ability to tackle challenges head-on. Needless to say, good coaches are hard to come by, and that’s true for both traditional sports as well as esports.

Fortunately, Europe is home to more than just a couple of exceptional leaders, so let’s showcase their accomplishments and focus on what exactly made them stand out over the years! The names you’ll see below are listed in no particular order.

Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann (G2 Esports)

For two years straight, Grabbz was best known for his Team ROCCAT stint. It wasn’t a particularly fruitful tenure, frankly speaking, but he showed a fair bit of promise given the amount of success he was able to find with the line-up that was at his disposal.

In late 2017, however, he was able to move up the ladder and was signed as G2 Esports’ head coach. The rest, as they say, is history. He had big shoes to fill and had to take the reins after G2’s incredible bottom lane duo decided to move across the Atlantic and compete in North America. All things considered, Grabbz had his hands full. He had to keep G2 near the top of the region with a noticeably weaker roster, all the while thriving in what was once again Fnatic’s dynasty.

Still, he found a way to persevere and was able to lead G2 Esports to a spectacular Top 4 World Championship finish by the end of the year. The odds were heavily stacked against them (especially considering their somewhat underwhelming bottom lane duo), but they succeeded nonetheless.

Their five-game barnburner against LPL’s Royal Never Give Up is considered by many as one of the most exhilarating Best of 5s in the game’s competitive history.

Grabbz went on to find even more success after a historic 2019 season (during which they only lost a single Best of 5), thus further solidifying his spot as one of the most talented coaches Europe has to offer.

Joey “Youngbuck” Steltenpool (Excel Esports)

There’s a reason why Youngbuck is often referred to as the “six-star general.” He’s as accomplished and successful a coach as they come, and he was able to build his staggering legacy with multiple entirely different rosters and organizations.

Fans will long remember the moment when he decided to leave G2 Esports in favor of Fnatic in 2018. His move, however, was of the 200 IQ variety. 2018 was the year Rasmus “Caps” Winther broke onto the scene. It was the year Fnatic became the first European team to have reached the World Championship finals. His move was calculated, and it bore fruit immediately.

Still, after winning six LEC titles in a row, Youngbuck decided that a change of pace was in order. He no longer wanted the pressure that came with leading the “kings of LEC,” and it’s hard to blame him. For 2020, he opted for a completely different kind of challenge: leading a ragtag group of underdogs — Excel Esports.

They weren’t able to reach the playoffs, but they fought admirably. With a couple of roster changes, they stand a solid chance of rectifying that mistake once the Summer Split comes along.

André Guilhoto (Origen)

Unlike some of his peers, André still hasn’t left a mark in the LEC which is to say he never won a title. Still, he came achingly close on multiple occasions. His teams always improve over time which is indicative of his knowledge and ability to teach. If they make a couple of egregious blunders, you can be certain that they’ll go back to the drawing board, work on their issues, and come back stronger next week.

That’s why he found so much success with Origen over the last two years. That said, his career is mostly defined by coaching fantastic gatekeepers, teams who were strong enough to fend off anyone below them in the standings, but never talented enough to dethrone the kings on top. Despite this, he’s one of the best League of Legends coaches that Europe has to offer and has already proven his worth even without a populated trophy case.

Alfonso Aguirre “Mithy” Rodríguez (Fnatic)

Mithy is already a legend. He’s won multiple LEC titles, he reached semifinals at Worlds and was widely regarded as one of the best support players in the West. His cerebral way of thinking, ability to shot call and function as an in-game coach garnered him worldwide attention and respect.

As time went on, however, it felt like his mechanics simply couldn’t keep up. After a fairly disappointing stint in North America (and a surprisingly solid 2019 in Europe), Mithy decided to hang his mouse and keyboard and become a full-time head coach for Fnatic.

Even though he’s been a coach for just a couple of months, he has already found a ton of success with one of the most aggressive and talented Fnatic line-ups in history. That’s saying something, given Fnatic’s sensational track record and history of dominance.

One could argue that former players make the best head coaches (regardless if it’s esports or traditional sports). There’s certainly proof that can back such a theory, and Mithy is perhaps the first truly accomplished player to turn coach in the LEC.

Mithy knows first-hand what it feels like to play in front of thousands of screaming fans. He knows how it feels like to get showered in confetti, but also to wait for the opposing team to come and shake his hand. He’s been a winner, a loser, and everything in between — he felt both ends of the spectrum. One can only assume that, over time, he’ll become one of the best and most successful League of Legends coaches in the LEC. He has all the right tools to achieve just as much as he did back when he was a player.

Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi (Analyst/Caster)

YamatoCannon is a staple presence. He’s been a guest on the LEC broadcast for many, many years, but he’s also horrendously undervalued as a coach. We mustn’t forget that he was able to lead Splyce to the World Championship back in 2016 — while being just 20-years- old.

Let that one sink in.

He’s twenty-four now, and yet he went to Worlds on multiple occasions. His teams never won a title, but they were always competitive and bafflingly aggressive. He brings a little extra something whenever he takes on the coaching role. His demeanor is theatrical and he’s a leader through and through. The fact that he was able to find so much success at such a young age is a testament to his work ethic and game knowledge. 2020, however, gave us a view at an entirely different YamatoCannon as he became a full-time LEC analyst and caster.

If this is all a part of his evolution, we can’t wait to see what’s next.

Fabian “Sheepy” Mallant (Unicorns of Love)

Sheepy is no longer coaching an LEC team, but he’s a legend in every sense of the word. For many years, the Unicorns of Love were arguably the most adored team in Europe. They were unique from head to toe, and that was true for their pink jerseys as well as their in-game tendencies and style of play. When UOL came to play, they left no one indifferent.

In fact, you could argue that they pioneered the chaotic, all-out style of play. They were doing it way before it became the norm. Insane engages, spectacular team fighting, and constant skirmishing was all a part of your average UOL game. This family-run organization, however, wasn’t accepted in the LEC back when it was being franchised. They simply didn’t have any long-term sponsors, nor were they as financially stable as some of their peers. Their incredible originality eventually became their downfall.

Sheepy, however, was always able to assemble a highly competitive roster with meager means. He never had a Caps, a Luka “Perkz” Perković or any such player. Instead, he had to roll up his sleeves and scout like a madman. Some of his most famous players went on to find success with different teams, but they were first given a chance by this forgotten coaching alchemist. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir, Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov, Tamás “Vizicsacsi” Kiss, Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, and Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek are all household names now, but their roots all lead to the same team: Unicorns of Love.

The Unicorns of Love weren’t a competitive behemoth, but rather a ragtag group of friends — a small, closely-knit family. This was their biggest strength, and it shined bright on many different occasions. They punched way above their weight class, and fans loved them for it.

Fortunately, after they failed to become a permanent partner, Sheepy took his team to the CIS region. The Unicorns were able to style on their opposition and quickly became the LCL champions, therefore qualifying for Worlds.

Funny how life works out sometimes.

Best League of Legends Coaches | Honorable Mentions

Luis “Deilor” Sevilla Petit, Dylan Falco, Neil “pr0lly” Hammad, and Simon “fredy122” Payne all deserve a mention. Deilor is still held in high regard after his historic run with Fnatic in 2015, pr0lly found a ton of success with H2K over the years (before franchising kicked in).

Dylan Falco is considered by many as a great strategic coach (and was able to lead Fnatic to multiple LEC titles), and fredy122 — an old school player perhaps best known for his SK Gaming and ROCCAT stints — has always managed to mold seemingly weak teams into highly competitive underdogs who can trade blows with the best teams the LEC has to offer.


Leave a Reply