After their loss to Echo Fox on Saturday, I spoke with Golden Guardians new head coach Tyler “Akiri” Perron about drafting on stage for the first time, any resources provided by the Golden State Warriors, and being a Tyler in Tyler1’s world.
Miles Yim: This is the first time you’ve been a head coach, calling picks and bans on stage. What’s it been like so far?
Tyler: At first it was a bit awkward. The whole setup is kinda clunky, so when you’re gearing up, putting your headphones on, all the noise is blocked out. Everything is kind of muffled as you look around, but other than that it feels pretty normal. When you draft in scrims, it’s very similar. I’m used to doing this every single day, it’s just when you get on stage, you’re in a suit, you’re all clunky walking around, it does feel a little weird. But it’s a nice feeling, it’s exciting, something I’ve been working towards.
The broadcast lists you by your first name, while some head coaches use their gamertag. Do you prefer Tyler or Akiri?
I prefer Tyler. When I switched from being an analyst to a coach, I wanted a more mature coaching staff name. I didn’t really want to have my summoner tag name, hopefully to start maybe a trend towards professionalism. And I think the Guardians appreciate that as well. I love all the funny attraction it gets coming with it. “Coach Tyler1 POGCHAMP,” is like my favorite thing to see on Twitch when I go back and watch the games.
Well since you brought it up, do you watch Tyler1 at all?
Yeah, of course I watch Tyler. I think that the Tyler1 Championship Series is really funny, very entertaining. He’s a great personality. I look up to him as a Tyler in esports. Maybe not some of his actions! But I think he’s a really entertaining personality.
You’ve been around the scene for a while now, but a lot of people don’t know who you are. Can you give me a brief history of your time in professional League of Legends?
Yeah, so before Golden Guardians, I worked with Phoenix1 in the LCS last season. I was the assistant coach for that team. Started out head analyst, moved to assistant coach for the Summer Split. Before that I worked for Immortals, especially with the [Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon] and [Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin] lineup, and before that I worked with Fnatic with the Huni and Reignover lineup. We got to semifinals at Worlds, which was really exciting.
Put that way, it seems like you followed Huni and Reignover from Fnatic to Immortals. Or was that not the case?
It ended up being the case, but it wasn’t necessarily intentional. It’s kind of hard to find analyst jobs when you’re not a known person yet, so you survey the opportunities, you reach out to organizations. Thankfully Immortals reached out to me, which was really nice, and we worked something out where I could work for Immortals for that split, and I just happened to have Huni and Reignover there too. So maybe it helped me get the position, but I don’t think I followed them, it just kind of happened that way.
Those iterations of Immortals and Fnatic were some of the most successful teams Western League of Legends has ever seen. In your mind, what made them great? Was it great players, the way they played, a combination of the two?
I think what made those teams great was the fact that they knew their identity, and they were really great teammates with each other. Something I’ve been working on with the Guardians ever since I took over was building up the sense of teamwork. The person sitting next to you is your teammate, and they know everything you’re going through. Obviously it’s been a bit of a rough start, but I think we have great expectations for what we want to be, and it’s just about reaching those goals. Something I’m taking from that Immortals lineup, from that Fnatic lineup, is that they knew how to be great teammates to each other, and help each other through things. And that’s just the process that we’re learning to do. We’ve only been a team for a little while, so it’s a matter of building up those blocks to become a great team.
Let’s talk about your current roster then. How integral were you in selecting players at the outset?
I did not play much of a role in the roster we have today. As an assistant coach, usually you don’t get much say in terms of what players you pick up. But at the end of the day, I did choose to come work for this roster because I see a great opportunity. What the Warriors want to do with their League of Legends team in the Golden Guardians is developing future NA talent that’s going to win championships. And I see that in these players. It’s just the start of spring season, and we’re looking much further than that. I know there’s a meme of like, “The Golden Guardians are only looking to move forward and look forward, they’re just going to keep losing and losing,” but I see past that pretty quickly. If you look at our game today against Echo Fox, we really proved that we’re a different team from last week, and we’re going to keep growing and improving.
What was the mentality going into the Echo Fox game today, and how well do you feel you executed?
Well, for this Echo Fox draft, we got almost identically the draft we wanted to get. So we prepared really well for that, that’s a draft we’re very practiced on. It’s just a matter of execution, right? Echo Fox is a really good team. We shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that that’s a first-place team. They have really strong solo laners. Their biggest strengths are some of our biggest weaknesses. Right now, we’re struggling with coordinating through early games, making sure that we’re even, and we can take over after that. And Echo Fox is really good at that. So it was a tough fight. I think it was a good fight, and it’s something we’re going to learn from today.
I spoke to [Matthew “Matt” Elento] and [Matthew “Deftly” Chen] earlier in the split, and both of them mentioned decisiveness as something they wanted to improve on. What does it mean for a team to be decisive, in your mind?
I think what Matt and Deftly were referring to was being decisive in their laning phase, and that’s something that takes time to grow with as players. Those two have never played together before, so obviously it’s going to take some time to do that. As in what we’re lacking, I don’t think we lack decisiveness. We lack controlled decisiveness. We’re always ready to go, it’s a matter of are we going too deep, are we too hype, stuff like that. In terms of Matt and Deftly’s growth, I think they’ve grown incredibly since they first started here, and they will continue to do so…We want to start from ground zero, where we know exactly where that is, and invest in players that we see a lot of potential in. Players that have an extremely high ceiling. And we see that in all of our players that we picked up.
Let’s focus on [Juan “Contractz” Arturo Garcia] for a moment. He was the Rookie of Spring Split 2017, now a veteran of the world stage, and has played alongside [Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen], one of the best mid laners in the West. I imagine if you’re looking for a Steph Curry, it’s him. How would you rate his play so far?
I love working with Juan. Me and him get along extremely well, and it’s been enjoyable to see both his struggles and what he’s really strong with. Juan was a rookie last year, and he went from rookie to Worlds. And there’s still so many things you have to learn when you’re moving from that process. He still has so much to develop in his communication, his leadership skills. If we’re looking for Juan as our Steph Curry, then we need to give Juan the time and the resources to become that. Because obviously, if anyone picks up a rookie and they think they’re going to be a Steph Curry, that’s crazy. You don’t know yet. I see a lot of potential in Juan, and I’m very excited to continue to work with him.
Deftly is a player that not many people knew about going into the split, especially if you didn’t follow Challenger last year. What has his growth been like so far, and how are you helping him meet—or raise—his ceiling?
For Deftly, a lot of people might have looked at him, when we started this roster, as a question mark. Maybe even the Golden Guardians did when we picked him up. But after watching him grow, and his hard work, his dedication, it’s very admirable. He’s someone I know will be great. It’s not a question in my mind. Deftly just has the dedication, the hard work, and the commitment. He’s very coachable, he listens to everything anyone can tell him, and you can hear people like [Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng] talk about how Deftly’s good, he’s going to be good. I see that in him every day. I’m very excited to continue working with Deftly, and if anything, he makes me even more committed. I see that growth in him and that excitement to learn, and it just makes me work even harder.
I want to take a step back and look at the organization as a whole. It’s been well documented that the team visited San Francisco last year to see the Warriors and their new facility. What was that like meeting that side of the franchise, having such a globally recognized entity involved with the Golden Guardians?
I haven’t seen a lot of the other new orgs that came in with NBA teams commit themselves with their NBA teams. A great example is 100 Thieves, they’re a whole different entity than the Cavs, right? It’s all under [Matt “NaDeSHoT” Haag]. What’s really nice about the Warriors is that we are neck-to-neck with their basketball team. They give us a lot of the same resources, the same expertise. I got to talk with Steve Kerr. There’s all these things that we have available to us that they want us to use. Everyone at the Warriors is really excited to meet us. We went up to San Francisco, we had a meet-and-greet to show people what League of Legends is, how to play League. All the regular workers were there like, listening to [Hai “Hai” Lam] talk about what mid lane is, who Galio is. It was really fun and exciting, and it’s a nice refresher to see that there’s more than just what’s going on in esports. There’s so much more being added to it. It just feels like we’re evolving, and the Warriors are one of the first teams to take that initiative.
I have to ask: What have your conversations with Steve Kerr been like?
When I talked to Steve Kerr, I wasn’t the head coach at the time, just an assistant coach. So it was just kind of talking to him about how he likes to run practice, what his ideals are on good practice, and team secret stuff so I can’t tell you. It’s really nice to know he’s a resource for me. That’s the best feeling.
You’re 0-7 right now. What is your barometer for success going forward? When Miami rolls around, where do you want to be as a team?
I want us to be in playoffs. That might be an unreachable goal, but it’s something we’re always going to push towards. But I think the best measurement for our success is how much are we growing as players. The Warriors are all about not necessarily long-term progress, but development. My keys for success are going to be how much we’ve developed since last week. How much better of a team are we from last week? Are we improving, and are we seeing the improvements we want to see. And on top of that: Are we better teammates than we were last week? Those are the two big questions I ask every week. If you asked me those questions, we’d have to wait and see until after tomorrow, but I definitely think we are.
This transcript was edited for clarity.