Renowned Singaporean Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) coach James "Jamesss" Chen made waves last month when he joined Team SMG for Season 7 of the MLBB Pro League (MPL) Malaysia, the league's first season since its split with Singapore.
The decision was surprising for some considering Jamesss' success as the coach of Indonesian powerhouse RRQ Hoshi last year.
Under his guidance, RRQ Hoshi had a strong start to 2020 as they won back-to-back MPL ID championships in Seasons 5 and 6 then triumphed at the MPL Invitational 4 Nations Cup.
However, RRQ Hoshi faltered at the ONE Esports MPL Invitational last December and fell short at the M2 World Championship in January this year. Jamesss left the team in early February, with his subsequent move to Team SMG being announced in March.
In an interview with Yahoo Esports SEA, Jamesss revealed that he joined Team SMG after his stint with RRQ Hoshi in order to give himself "a challenge" in building a squad up from scratch.
"I like to give myself a challenge. As you know, Team SMG has been at the bottom for the past three seasons if I’m not wrong. That’s why I chose Team SMG," said Jamesss.
"Team SMG to me is like more towards building something because they really needed to rebuild and I think I see the potential that they can do so."
Jamesss is still tackling that challenge and building up Team SMG. As of the end of Week 7 of the MPL MY Season 7 group stage, Team SMG sit in 4th place of Group A with a 4-7 record. By all accounts, Team SMG is far from being the type of squad that Jamesss has been used to coaching. Even so, he says he prefers having things this way.
"It feels more towards like building a team in Team SMG rather than acquiring a team," said Jamesss. "I don’t want to take over a team that already has results. I’d rather go to a team that is at the bottom and has nothing to lose. That’s what I’m looking for."
Despite their middling record, Team SMG has shown signs of the potential for greatness that could have enticed Jamesss to join them after they pulled off a huge upset over Season 6 champions Todak in Week 2.
But more than just the team's potential, Jamesss cited two important reasons why he was confident that he could someday turn Team SMG into a contender.
The first point is their mutual respect. As Team SMG's players respect Jamesss as one of the most decorated coaches in the scene, he likewise respects their talent and potential.
"I think they respect me a lot, which I feel is okay. I mean, I need everyone else’s respect as well," said Jamesss.
With that said, Jamesss said his team's openness to his coaching is what could really get them over the hump. Team SMG already have the talent and the potential, after all, they just need to let Jamesss help guide them towards greatness.
"Their biggest strength is that they are willing to learn. They accept almost everything [ I have to say]," said Jamesss.
If the coach and his new team are given more time to grow together, can they turn such flashes of greatness into something more consistent? Could we see the renowned coach at the head of another contender as early as next season? It will be a challenge, as Jamesss would call it, but he believes it is certainly doable.
"Of course, when you talk about team building it can take a long time. For like, one season, we are going to experiment and try things out. There are player mechanics and other things to take care of so it’s not going to be easy," said Jamesss.
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