Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Flowers for Inero – The Biggest Coaching “If Only”

Nicholas”Inero” Smith has bid the LCS stage farewell — as a coach. There was no “beautiful segment” on his legacy, no real acknowledgment of his achievements on the broadcast. His announcement on social media likely won’t even make the front page of Reddit. In a weird way, it’s the perfect send-off.

An incredible coaching career starting back in 2015 with Mouseesports never got the shine it truly deserved. It is partially a result of his team selection — turning crumbling North American organizations into competitive rosters rather than being connected to powerful line-ups.

He would provide a vision for Echo Fox — capitalizing on the “funnel strategy” that would send them to the mid-season Rift Rivals event in 2018 — shockingly his only international event appearance.

He built one of the most impressive young cores in North America for an organization that had been a laughing stock in Golden Guardians. And when the team would forgo paying their contracts, he would once again use his magic to build another competitive line-up just a year later featuring young talent.

And then there was his work in the Oceanic region, helping build the pathway for talent to come over — arguably his greatest achievement that he is rarely credited for.

His yearning for improvement in the team’s talent was admirable. He would be an active leader in promoting the in-house Discord system that would inspire Champions Queue. He would advise players unable to join teams in carry roles to potentially role swap, finding a better role to showcase their talents. And he would actively promote players looking to find rosters in the amateur scene, something rarely done by well-respected figures in the space.

And no one gave a sh** about what he was looking to do to improve the region.

He had a beautiful vision of what it took to be a coach. Players that left his tutelage didn’t struggle. They would continue to grow. Sometimes, there would be a minor learning curve. But players weren’t just playing into a system, they were growing their craft, learning how to be better at League of Legends.

Strategically, he would have some of the freshest takes on metas or what works. He showed a willingness to be creative with his drafting, a willingness to take risks in a best of one. And that’s something that’s missing for a lot of struggling teams. They want to win straight up rather than putting themselves in a position to be better.

There were never excuses with Golden Guardians. Only, “we’ll be better.” A coach that never looked for attention but a coach that wanted the shine to be on his players and the blame on himself.

It will forever be a wonder what he could have accomplished in a “better” organization — whether it be with a popular organization or an organization with more money than God. It will also be a wonder of what he could have done the young core that was shipped off to 100 Thieves — who just qualified for Worlds for the second straight year.

In his final game as a head coach, he watched his team fight to the very end — taking Counter Logic Gaming surprisingly to Game 5 with no one believing in them to win. And despite it clearly being CLG’s game to lose just a few minutes in, the team was able to extend it to 40 minutes off of wave management.

It adds to the magic of what he was able to accomplish. It isn’t his resume that earns him a bid in the esports Hall of Fame. Rather, it is a story of what coaches should look to accomplish, look to do. It is something to admire.

He likely will be moving into a front office position — more than worthy for any and all front office hours. But it is a shame he may never been the person on stage every game and that we may only see him in post-game appearances.

So pour one out for the homie. Or maybe more yourself an extra drink at the LCS loses a gifted mind as the coaching position continues to be a question mark for teams. He was the coach that simply looked to be the best coach he possibly could be. Unfortunately, we don’t see that enough.

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