Former ASU League of Legends player returns as coach

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Former Arizona State League of Legends player Sean Innes, left, here watching an international tournament with the ASU team, has transitioned to head coach. (Photo courtesy ASU League of Legends)

PHOENIX – After reaching the Top 16 of the College League of Legends Championship, Arizona State’s League of Legends squad was thrown into turmoil as players graduated and the coach departed.

Sean “Firinz” Innes was the varsity jungle for ASU last season when the team advanced to Top 16, and when his season ended, Innes found himself wondering about his future with ASU League of Legends.

He needed just one more semester to graduate and asked himself whether he wanted to play in the fall, when College League of Legends is out of season. Or should he consider stepping into the vacant head coaching position for the varsity team?

For Innes, the answer was obvious.

“There’s no point to just play one semester, the fall is the offseason and then spring is when everything starts,” Innes said. “So now it’s kind of just the perfect time to transition to (coaching). This will be my first official position as a head coach.”

Innes’ past experience with ASU League of Legends was a huge reason he was brought in to serve as the new coach.

Jordan Moffat, social media manager for ASU League of Legends, is the right-hand man to the president of the club, Tyler Bender, and worked side by side with him during the “hiring” process of Innes.

“We actually spoke to Sean, and Sean expressed that he was more interested in coaching as opposed to playing,” Moffat said. “So talking to him, we had a good idea, like, ‘OK, Sean is really good for the program. He’s really good. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and he’s also very familiar with us.’”

Innes played multiple positions including jungle, support, and mid lane during his time with ASU League of Legends. His versatility made him an accomplished player and should serve him well as a coach.

“He’s really strong mechanically as well as intellectually,” Moffat said. “And he can also communicate it very well, because he played into the high, high competition level in collegiate.”

Innes climbed through solo queue Ranked League of Legends playing the three different roles. Reaching Master tier in League of Legends is only a feat 0.12% of players accomplish. A mere 0.013% reach Grandmaster. Innes accomplished both of those feats in his jungle role, and reached Grandmaster and Master in support and mid lane, respectively.

However, being an effective coach requires more than the ability to play the game at a high level.

“Yeah, so I think one of the most important things that you need to be able to do to be a successful coach is to be able to convince your players that you’re right,” Innes said.

Players can be stubborn when it comes to a game where individual success is measured in ranked play. Practices and scrimmages are the places coaches have to win their players over and convince them.

ASU League of Legends top laner Hoang Long “Pinny” Nguyen is starting his first year with Innes and is already noticing the new coach’s ability early in the year.

“As a coach, I think he has pretty good call outs,” Nguyen said. “Even just wave management, like getting men file by file. I think he’s done a pretty good job of that.”

Innes knows the strength of the roster he has at his disposal. But he also realizes that these players are all strong individually and believes they will need coaching to succeed as a team.

“I think people are going to see our roster, and even some of our first games, I know we probably won’t play too well because we have lots of solo queue players,” Innes said.

So while the ASU League of Legends view this as a rebuilding year, the fluctuation in strength of ASU’s competitors is also a big question mark – depending on how many players go in and out of other varsity teams.

But Innes remains hopeful that his team is on the path to winning the West.

“Right now, our goal is set on winning the Western Region,” he said. “We have a good team this year.”

And, perhaps, an equally good head coach.

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