The last time we saw Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun coach SK Telecom T1 was in LCK Summer 2019.

Achieving an 11-7⁠ match record, he took his leave even before the playoffs began. In Spring 2020, he moved over to the League of Legends Pro League in China to coach Vici Gaming before returning to the LCK to coach Dplus KIA the following year.

Absent from competitive play in 2022, kkOma came back briefly in 2023 to lead Team Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games, making history in the process.

Faker holding up four fingers after winning the Worlds 2024 championship
Credit: ONE Esports, Riot Games
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Finally, in 2024 — four years after his last stint with the organization, he returns to his roots as T1’s head coach, where only Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok from the original three-time Worlds-winning roster remains.

In an exclusive interview with ONE Esports, kkOma reflects on his comeback, analyzes the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and how they deal with losses.

T1 veteran head coach kkOma is comfortably sitting in the driver’s seat again

MSI 2024 is his first international tournament since settling back on home turf. “Of course, it brings up old memories. It just feels like home,” kkOma told ONE Esports. “You know at the beginning, Faker was there and he’s still with us now, so it feels just the same.”

T1 Zeus posing with cute hand sign during LCK Spring 2023 in ONE Esports featured image for article "Exclusive: T1 Zeus on how his family’s weekend ritual turned him into a pro player"
Credit: ONE Esports, LCK
Exclusive: T1 Zeus on how his family’s weekend ritual turned him into a pro player

At the same time, the coach feels “amazed” that the original mid laner who, together, kicked off their League of Legends esports careers, is still here — and is still playing well.

To qualify for MSI 2024, the Worlds 2023 champions made it to the LCK Spring 2024 finals where the top two teams represent their region. Pitted against long-time rivals Gen.G for the fifth LCK final in a row, T1 has lost the last four.

“Since our players and coaching staff are incredible, I can’t say we’ve faced any significant challenges. If I had to choose, the hardest part was accepting our loss during the LCK Spring 2024 finals,” kkOma said. “But we gave it our all, so all we can do is prepare even better for the next matches. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the experience so far.”

Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun of T1 is seen during MSI Play-Ins at the Chengdu Financial City Performing Arts Center in Chengdu, China on May 01, 2024. (Photo by Yicun Liu/Riot Games)
Credit: Riot Games

The three-time world champion head coach has had to deal with his fair share of losses throughout his long career. The most poignant and public one was SKT’s Worlds 2017 final sweeping loss to Samsung Galaxy where Faker broke down and cried at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, China.

“For me, the players are my top priority. Even though they may say they’ve gotten over a loss, it’s natural for players to struggle with it,” kkOma related. “Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever developed a method to get over losses quickly. Time seems to be the best healer.”

“However, during that period, when I’m alone, it can be really tough for me,” he admitted. “But again, ensuring that the players overcome their struggles and move past the loss is my top priority.”

SKT Telecom T1 Faker at Worlds 2013 posing at the Staples Center in ONE Esports featured image for article "Faker’s full list of podium finishes throughout his long League of Legends career"
Credit: ONE Esports, Riot Games
Faker’s full list of podium finishes throughout his long League of Legends career

This MSI 2024 is the third consecutive time T1 qualified for the annual mid-season tournament. In 2022, they narrowly lost 2-3 to Royal Never Give Up and settled for second place. In 2023, they lost 1-3 to Bilibili Gaming in the lower bracket final and finished third.

The last time the organization lifted the MSI trophy was seven years ago when kkOma was still their head coach — at MSI 2016 and MSI 2017.

Looking ahead, kkOma shared, “Honestly, we tend to focus more on our strengths than our weaknesses. Instead of spending time trying to improve our weaker areas, we concentrate on enhancing what we already do well. I believe that this is a more effective approach.”

Faker's Secretlab chair in ONE Esports featured image for article "Faker teams up with fashion brand to release his own gaming chair — and it’s not what you’d expect"
Credit: ONE Esports, Secretlab
Faker teams up with fashion brand to release his own gaming chair — and it’s not what you’d expect

Having a wide champion pool, “amazing mechanics,” and “strategy implementation,” are three key strengths that they focus on, he shared.

“In a way, they are just good at everything,” kkOma laughed. “Being able to play a variety of compositions is a huge advantage. Not only can our players handle a wide range of champions, but they also play them exceptionally well. That’s why it’s tough for other teams to keep up with us.”

Keep up with MSI 2024’s schedule, scores, and results here.

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