(Interview conducted by Jessica "DuelQueen" Pohl.)
After their loss against Chinese team, Qiao Gu Reapers, GameSpot sat down with InnerFlame, the new general manager of Team Dignitas to discuss his transition to North America, and how he feels about the current state of his old team, SK Gaming.
GameSpot: What's your aim for Dignitas in the upcoming LCS split? It's been kind of rough for them in the past splits.
Joe "InnerFlame" Elouassi: I want to obviously be higher than last split, but I always have my own goals. I think, for the Spring Split, we won't be too annoyed if we don't finish in the top two or top three, or even first seed. But for summer split, that's definitely our aim. So with that in mind, maybe we'll be a bit annoyed if we only finish top five, but we won't be as disappointed. It's a new team and teams need a lot of time to develop synergy together and once we're able to do that I think we'll be really good. In our match against Qiao Gu, we showed a lot of promise. We took a top two LPL team to three games and we could've easily won the series as well, so I think there are a lot of good things to come from our team.
Since you touched on your game against QG already, how is the team feeling now after the loss? Did you expect to win the series and are you happy with the result?
We tried to win it. Yeah, we're happy because we learned from it. We played a potentially world class team. We took a very good team to three games and we're not disappointed in any way. We're learning and that's what matters for us. After this, Jesiz will go back to his assistant coach job. It's unannounced, at the moment, but that's something that's coming up. Jesse has been working with the team, watching our scrims for the past 2 months.
Since Jesiz played support for Dignitas in this tournament, did you decide on him based on the lack of talent in the region, or was it because he was watching all the games with you guys and is now the assistant coach for the team?
I mean, that definitely played a part in it, but actually, Jesiz has been playing support in SoloQ for the last 2-3 months since he qualified for the LCS with Gamers2. He wants to try his hand at coaching, and he is a very knowledgeable player. I know him from the past, but even then, in this offseason, he tried out for some LCS teams as a support because people were very impressed with how he played in SoloQ. Honestly, I'm happy with how he performed this tournament. He didn't play with us on short notice, but I'm just happy considering the circumstances and I couldn't be more thankful for Jesiz stepping in.
Is there a big difference managing a European team compared to a North American team, especially mentality-wise?
Every player that I take into my teams should have hunger. I won a lot in the past. My recipe to success is I try to be very transparent with my team without going too much into detail about things. I don't think it's a mentality thing, but definitely personality-wise and culture-wise, the regions are very different. Europeans talk more directly to each other, maybe even in a harsh way. I think, with this team, people just adapt to each other--because I have multiple players from different regions in my team. More than anything, it's a difference in personality, as opposed to mentality.
What's the biggest difference between having been a team coach and manager since you've been both for SK--and now just being a general manager, since you have Brokenshard on your side doing the coaching part?
Obviously, I was doing two jobs at once in SK so now it's definitely a lot of the work load off of my shoulders. When I was doing both, I felt like there was a conflict of interest between the two jobs. Also, I've always been a manager--it's something I'm good at. I know what I want from a coach and I think my time coaching helped me. But when I was doing both jobs, I had no choice but to neglect one or the other. Now that I'm doing just one job, I can do it more efficiently, so I'm pretty happy. Dignitas is a great organization. They treat me and the team very well. It's all going great and it's definitely work taken off of my shoulders.
Do you still help out with coaching when you see certain things that you would change?
Yeah, I'm not just a functional manager. I don't just do the paperwork and stuff like that. I am a very hands-on manager, and I am very interactive with my players. I don't have to be, but I just choose to be.
Why did you decide to go to North America now instead of Europe? Did you want a change of scenery or was it just a better offer?
I had offers in both regions. There were many offers from multiple LCS teams and I definitely had a choice, but mostly, I was interested in the organization. Whether they sold their NA or the EU spot didn't really matter to me. My allegiance was with Dignitas. I don't know what it is but I feel like I share many of the same beliefs as Odee. More than money, the atmosphere and the mindset that I'm working with are quite important, especially because I know what it's like working in a bad atmosphere. That's not something that I would choose to do again. I am very happy at where I am and I feel I can make more progression as a manager, learning from Odee as well. He's been around longer than most people. I can definitely have the most progression in my ability to manage this team or teams in general. Also, in the future, I don't know what's going to happen to League of Legends, and I feel like there are many opportunities to branch out elsewhere.
Seeing SK Gaming play in the Challenger Series now, do you actually feel bad for them?
Yeah, of course. I spent a year and a half in SK and I left with no bad blood, and I don't like seeing people fail, in general. I'm sad for SK, and I think they're still ambitious, importing two Koreans into the challenger series. It's interesting to see what SK are going to do this upcoming split and I don't really know what to say. I wish them the best and hope they bounce back.
Any shoutouts or last words?
Thank you to Odee, thank you to the sponsors, and thank you to my parents, who've been very supportive as well in recent times.