Farewell Guilhoto, farewell superteam
Forget Jungle. Forget support. In League of Legends, there is no greater a whipping boy than the coach. Any draft error, any mid game misstep, any internal battle, and most of the hate goes to the coach. It’s reached a point where you could use the flame a coaching staff gets as a barometer for how a team does overall.
It was—and has been—no different for André "Guilhoto" Pereira Guilhoto. Before the split began, much of the community greeted TL's head coach pick with cautious optimism. After all, the team looked great on paper and a lot of analysts and community voices give Guilhoto’s coaching a great deal of credit. In the early days it wasn’t just optimism and praise, it was also accolades—as Liquid won Coaching Staff of the Split in Spring 2022. Once the superteam slotted into less-than-super results, the flame rose to match the scale of the defeats and the unmet expectations.
There’s an article waiting to be written on the complexities of coaching in League and why the 6th man always seems to be the fall guy. But the long and short is that most people criticize the coach because it’s the easy thing to do. The draft is the easiest element of the game to pick at. And even though it’s a very, very open secret that League coaches don’t exercise full control over drafts, they still take the lion’s share of the blame for them.
The coaching staff has always been an easy target—but not really a good one, if you’re genuinely trying to understand the game. As seen from both our failure as well as Max Waldo and C9’s successes, there’s a lot of internal dynamics and politics in play that most won’t see (and many won’t even try to guess at).
As we part ways with Guilhoto, I know the tendency will be to blame the coach. Liquid’s drafts were weird, the team’s identity never settled, but the players were all-stars across the board. I know the coach is the easy target, I know that everyone saw this news coming, and so I want to make this farewell a bit different.
As a farewell to a coach that poured his full heart and effort into the team, let us give you something closer to a full story. As told not by the comment section after the match but by the people there, in the practice room and on the LCS stage. This is a farewell interview that is, in majority, written and conducted by Support CoreJJ, Team Manager Ben Zieper, and Head Coach Guilhoto.
This will not be the easy indictment some of you are looking for. Instead, it will be an honest goodbye. To the best of my ability, I’ve preserved as much of the truth of the disagreements and divides that shaped our year into the 4th place form that it took on. A form which, while disappointing, was not entirely without merit or without good moments. This is not the whole story—but it’s a whole lot of the story.
Before we begin, I’ll open with Guilhoto’s own words.
[Almost] All the things you wanted to know
Core: What is your favorite part of being a League of Legends coach?
Guilhoto: My favorite part is having an influence on people's lives.
It's a big, big responsibility when your actions and your words and your example have a big influence on your players. Both here and when I was coaching basketball. I think that [the] human part is the part that I liked the most about coaching.
Ben: Core, can you tell me what you thought of Andre when you first met him last year?
Core: When we had a dinner before he was considering joining Team Liquid I saw he was really being serious [about being] the League of Legends coach. I can feel his passion and [see] he has a good philosophy of how to coach the team. And then that made me think he's going to be [a] great coach.
Ben: Can I ask you to expand [on what] Core talked about? Tell me a little bit about what those passions were and are and what that philosophy is?
Guilhoto: From that dinner to now, it changed a little bit. [But] I got from that dinner that me and Core see excellence in a very similar way, [through] discipline and dedication and hard work. Whenever you're committing to something, don't half-ass it and just fully commit. That still is my philosophy. My main, main motto is whatever you do throughout the day needs to be with the goal of improving. Sometimes that can be resting, sometimes that can be spamming solo queue but as an individual you need to know the line yourself between relaxing to get better and slacking.
Core: So how did you take that Spring loss? What did you take away from it?
Guilhoto: [That] loss was kinda… tough, because the expectation was that we were going to win. I think it was the first real loss we faced as a team and I don’t think we faced it that well. That Baron steal, with the Baron leveling up, kinda destroyed us a bit on the day, mentally. In a way, that's my responsibility for not being able to lift everyone up, but the way that Baron was stolen…
I remember that I had two weeks or three weeks of meetings with Steve and Dodo right after we came back and I had like a list of the things and the priorities of it. Number one was a sports psychologist. Especially for Hans.
The second one for us was to have a bootcamp, which we did. I think that it was very helpful but we should have [extended] it a bit more. Then the 3rd and 4th are to remain confidential.
My take was that our mental needed improvement—that’s where number one was coming [from]—and that we needed to find a better team identity, that’s where the second one was coming [from].
In terms of gameplay it was just pushing more for us to play aggressively. I think that was a big, big topic—which I think we kind of achieved. Making sure that we are more aggressive and more proactive, just punishing mistakes, that was a big difference we had [between] Spring and Summer.
The one thing that I failed to recognize in Spring—but I can look back now and see—was the need of very simple fundamentals and the repetition that it requires. We realized that as a team, but it was too late. Because in moments of stress, we were defaulting to fundamentals that each individual had from their previous teams. I should have realized that after Houston and made sure that we would create our own fundamentals and that they were common. We had our own fundamentals, but they were not repeated enough to the point where we would default to them when we were under a stressful situation.
Ben: Tell me a little bit about our Korean boot camp—How it started, what our win rate was like, and what we learned from the process?
Core: So when we went to the Korean bootcamp, we scrimmed against many different LCK Teams. Some of them are really good, some of them are middle tier teams. But we played against so many different teams, and then we talk[ed] before we started the games, and everybody wanted to be more proactive. Everybody wanted to be [a] more creative team. So don't be afraid of making a mistake. And then our win rate was actually not super high—around like 50 percent against Asian teams.
Even though we lost, we made some good plays. Even though we lost, we were not losing lane. With loss, we made so many good plays and then also they made a good play. Oftentimes we lost more than enemy teams because they were better at those plays. But losing felt okay [because] I can see us improving throughout the day. And then at the end of [the] day, we had full confidence that we're going to play better.
Core: How did you think about that boot camp?
Guilhoto: I mean I loved Korea.
Not only the food and the city, but the practice, in general, was just so different. I think that we were also different. I think everyone had a really open mindset. Obviously, when you come from a loss you kind of have to humble down and analyze yourself more and I think we did that really well in Korea and we had a really successful bootcamp.
As Core said, not necessarily in winrate but the improvement we saw throughout the day was really big and really good. The effort that people were putting as well in solo queue [was better]. Obviously, it’s much more rewarding. It felt like it was going to be a really good split and it was in the first week I guess. Overall I think the Korean bootcamp was really successful and brought us together and showed us that the things we talked about could work.
Core: We lost some momentum after Week Two of Summer Split. How did you think about it?
Guilhoto: At the time, I didn't realize that we lost momentum there. Because we lost the game to TSM where you guys were in a very tough matchup, but [it] was a matchup that we were okay playing in scrims. Then you guys got 2v2 killed, so I thought it was just like a one-off more than us losing momentum. So I didn't [take] it like [a] “shit hit the fan” kind of thing. I thought that it was just a one-off thing and we'll bounce back again next week.
Core: For me, rewind[ing through] summer. I think that specific game changed it 180 [for] our team. I think [we’d] been winning exactly the same matchup. We were winning extremely hard, in insane matchups, in insane games. And then this is just a game [where] Stephen’s [Hans’s] mouse worked weirdly. He randomly walked forward and then used his “E” [to get] back. I tried to save him and then panic-played, died. Everything [in that] game was messing up. [...] If we finish[ed] with this [problem], [it] could be fine because it was just this one game. But then we [weren’t] able to play the same champion, [same draft] until like Week Seven. We completely changed how we play the game after that day.
Guilhoto: Yeah, in hindsight, that was a very crucial point. It was just in the moment, I didn't realize it would be this big. Because it scaled off that as well. Since it was not acknowledged that it is a problem now, it was also never addressed. And then when we saw that, "Wow, this is actually a big problem!" it was already deeper.
Ben: How did you guys manage to bounce back? Because things started to look a lot better by Week Seven.
Core: What I see is: we didn't realize how bad the Week Two game was. And then after Week Two every week, we [went] one [for] one. We lost one game, we tried to figure out the new problem, then we try to change to another way. So every week was different problem-solving. And then around Week Seven, we basically [are] going back to the beginning, [to] try to be more [on the] same page and [Guilhoto] tried to make everything more simple, [in order] to be on the same page.
Guilhoto: Yeah, it’s what Core says, there was always something changing. In even players' responsibilities, staff responsibilities, there was always something changing. Champions played, champions that are benched now.
I think that the bounce back towards Week Seven was first merited to bot lane for getting out of the hole that they were in. I think it started Week Six already that they were building back up. And then yeah, I think that presentation [after Week Six] felt weird to me in a way where every time there was a presentation I would expect some people to agree, some people to disagree—that was the normal. But this was the first one that I was just there talking and people were just agreeing. And God damn we were playing well.
I thought after that presentation when I was seeing scrims, and when I saw our Week Seven on stage, I was like, “Alright, it's done. We are winning the split. There is no stopping us.” But just like it was at the start of the split, the problems didn't stop appearing.
Core: If you could start this year over, what would you do differently?
Core: Would you join Team Liquid again?
Laughter ceases, Guilhoto answers without hesitation.
Guilhoto: Yes. Yes I would join Team Liquid again.
I think in spring I would have made a better effort to understand Hans. I think, Core, [I’m] kind of similar to you in a way where I always had a very stereotypical way of how do you improve and how do you get your best performance through hard work. But Hans is very different to [that stereotype]. So I think that that would be number one. I would listen to Hans more.
I think that I would have pushed harder for a sports psychologist.
I think I would have established simple fundamentals from way earlier on because even though the expectation was that everyone is very veteran and we can jump some concepts, the reality is that the concepts are different for everyone. And I think that I took a bit to realize that.
But to answer your second question, I don't regret anything. I think that I learned a lot this year and if I put myself in the moment [again], without the hindsight, I would probably have made very similar decisions to the one that I made. I felt like this year I consistently did my best at that moment, so I don't regret putting in as much work as I did. I would have still joined Team Liquid because I leave Team Liquid a better coach, with learning a lot. And I think that the real failure is not learning from your experiences more than losing. So with that in mind, I think that I still get a lot from this year, and I wouldn't trade it back.
Core: There were some low points during the season but can you tell me about some of the high points? Any games or any series you really liked?
Guilhoto: Week Seven against EG. Oh God damn I love that game. I think we played so fucking well. I think it was the best game that any team played throughout the season. That game was so beautiful to watch.
That answer is always going to be boring for most people because the memorable moments, for most people, are never going to be memorable moments to me. For example, if I'm on EG’s side, that Baron steal and then winning the game and winning the series because of it, it's not going to be a memorable moment for me because it was not close to excellency. There was an element of “luck” involved. “Luck” with [air quotes]. Obviously, they're a great team.
Core: [When] you're 50 years old, what do you want to be when you look back [at your] League of Legends Coaching [career]?
Guilhoto: My dream scenario...
Obviously, I'll answer what everyone will answer, right? To win Worlds. But I don't want to just win Worlds. I want to win Worlds with a project that I built. Like, for example, Mad Lions that won LEC. That's kind of, that's kind of my dream. Like, where you have your team, and you build it up and then that team wins something.
Ben: If that's how you feel, why did you join Team Liquid, a team of all veterans?
Guilhoto: Because he asked at 50 years old. I still want to win, you know?
The whole room laughs.
Honestly, I think the best answer for that question, and the real reason, is because winning or losing, Team liquid would be a step where I would learn a lot and the step that would make me closer to being able to achieve that [dream] in the future. There's this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. which is, “If you can't fly, you run, if you can't run, you walk, if you can't walk, you crawl, but no matter what you keep moving forward.”
The experiences that you gather through flying are different from running from walking from crawling, but gathering all those experiences is important for the path and, no matter what, you just keep moving forward. So I'll keep moving forward. And the reason why I joined Team Liquid was because winning or losing this experience was always going to be very rich for my personal development.
One last bit of coaching
Core: So last year, when Jatt left I asked him if he can give me [one] last feedback because we're going to say goodbye. He told me to be more confident to lead the team. And I want to ask you [a] similar thing since you are leaving Team Liquid. What is your last feedback to [all the] players as a coach?
Guilhoto: For Bwipo I would say to define his boxes earlier on. But making sure that he takes the time to explore outside of them, for him not to feel discouraged on some stuff that can go wrong. I think that for him it’s really important that he knows what's his role in a team, but that he doesn't limit himself to those roles and tries to get out of those roles here and there for his own progression.
For Lucas [Santorin], I would tell him to be more decisive. For him to be more willing to take actions without too much information. Be more willing to play his own game without depending on his teammates so much. I think that that is something that can make him grow.
For Soren [Bjergsen] it’s to open his horizons more. Trying to not only update his game view, but also trying to align what you are good at with how you view the game.
For Hans it’s literally just [to] be himself. I think Hans just needs to be himself much more and have more fun. Whenever he's constrained he struggles.
For Core, I think that the best feedback that I can give to you is for you to never give up explaining yourself. I think that there were times where you felt that people weren't listening and you started feeling like it was useless to help. I think that...
Actually, I'll just be completely honest. I think the best advice that I can give you is to make sure that you are on a team where you don't have to feel that way. I think that one of your biggest strengths is the way that you can make people improve, but you have to surround yourself with people that want to improve and that are willing to listen. Because when that doesn't happen, that affects you too. So either you have to surround yourself [with] people that want to listen, or you have to be better at shielding yourself when people don't.
Ben: [Core,] what feedback do you have for Andre as a coach?
Core: I think it's the natural habit because you were not a professional League of legends player before, so you see the game with a big picture a lot. But there is a case that individual plays can get more than the big picture [play] because every game is not the same. I always like the [saying] that little limitations may maximize creativity and then [from there] trying to not make a [oversized] limitation. I think the concepts you're suggesting are really good so if you give up space for the player to, you know, run around in your [system] it can be good. That is how I feel.
Ben: Last question. Is there anyone you would like to thank? Or any shout-out you want to give?
Guilhoto: First of all, thank you all, especially dodo, for giving me the opportunity. Even if it didn't work out, it's something [where] I would [make] the same decision to join 10 out of 10 times because of the experience that it gives. Thanks as well to Team Liquid. I think that this org is amazing and always treated me really, really well. And I've only good things to say—except for Mayron.
Thank you to all the players for putting up [with] me. I think that as a team and with every player, I had beautiful moments to share, bad moments [too], but the good ones will outweigh the bad by a [wide] margin. And [thanks] to everyone that supported me and, to be fair, to everyone that criticized me as well.
Special shout-outs to the community of Q&A that there was on [Team Liquid’s] Discord because I made a big effort—even when we were going one-one and when we're playing like shit—that I would still give a place for the fans to revolt and to ask whatever they wanted and I always tried to answer as honestly as I could. And obviously [thanks] to my wife and dog and Ben.