Mad Lions head coach James “Mac” MacCormack is learning more about the parts of being a head coach he excels at. Now he is looking to lead MAD Lions to new heights at Worlds 2021
In their first game at the 2021 LoL World Championship, MAD Lions were up against North America’s Team Liquid. Initially slated as the favorites heading into the game, things went sour. And it all stems from the draft according MAD Lions head coach James “Mac” MacCormack. MAD Lions composition saw them play a Jarvan into an Ezreal LeBlanc, resulting in a weird scenario. In order to win the game, they would need to end it early.
So, throughout the game, MAD Lions did their best to find picks and fights in order to stop Team Liquid from being able to scale up. Unfortunately, the composition proved to strong as MAD Lions were struck trying to find awkward engagements onto the Team Liquid carries. This all culminated into one final teamfight where MAD Lions’ midlaner Marek “Humanoid” Brázda engaged on Team Liquid before the opposing side swept the entire MAD Lions team, leaving LEC’s number one seed 0-1 to start Worlds 2021.
Now, with five more games ahead of them in the Worlds 2021 Group Stages, MAD Lions head coach Mac is now looking to take all that he has learned in 2021 so that MAD Lions can bounce back and make a deep run at Worlds.
Sage Datuin: Let’s start with this recent game against Team Liquid. From an outside perspective, it looked like many of these teamfights were very close, but what is the major mistake you notice?
MAD Mac: In all honesty, I gave my players a really bad composition going into that game. Our early rotations were rough. We ended up playing Jarvan into Ezreal and LeBlanc which you cannot do later on. If you are Elyoya, it just feels really bad so I truly apologize for that game. With this composition, if we did not get ahead, it would always be very hard.
There were definitely mistakes in-game too, but we just did not have as much frontline engage. Our engages needed to be done from longer ranges because of their mobility. That means players cannot be closed in on as easily with mobility. The fights looked really weird and messy as a result. This drafted composition also forced the team needing to overreach on some of these plays.
Sage Datuin: Let’s move onto the group Mad Lions was placed into. This is a fairly even group where anybody can place anywhere. Do you feel pressure this Worlds 2021? Especially given Fnatic’s recent change, many view you as the last LEC hope.
Europe is definitely in a tough position right now. Group and circumstances wise, both Rogue and Fnatic are running into some troubles. I especially feel really bad for Fnatic and Upset, who worked so hard to get there. My hope is that he will be alright.
As for what people think, I don’t really care much. My personal goals are centered on making sure this team is in it mentally and that we are performing. Worrying about what others think is not going to help us get to quarterfinals. My focus is on doing my job well and making sure my team is in the best position possible to succeed. If we play really well, then we can make an investment into caring.
Sage Datuin: Talk to me about the changes between preparation between bo1’s in LEC and Bo1’s at the international stage.
MAD Mac: I really do not like best-of-ones and especially at Worlds, the format can be quite punishing. If you make one big mistake, then you potentially risk being unable to move forward at Worlds. It is funny, I actually prefer going through the play-ins as a warm up, even though we lost in play-ins laughs But you gain more competence and get rid of those jitters. Play-ins I feel helps you lock into the tournament mindset.
If you look historically, the teams who go through play-ins tend to benefit from it when they go into groups. If you compare MSI as well, we were actually lucky. We did not get placed into play-ins and throughout the group stage round robin, we had a rocky showing. I remember a game against Turkey that was 55 minutes long and then we lost. Stil, those extra games are very useful in a tournament like this. Winning in play-ins helps instill confidence that you are a good team and players, especially when given a lead. Also, you could have three or four different ideas of what the meta is and you could choose the wrong one but still bounce back. In groups, if you lose a game, it suddenly changes the face of the entire group.
Sage Datuin: How important would you say it was to have a good showing at MSI after failing to make Group Stages at Worlds 2020?
Mad Mac: That was a big vindication for me personally, for sure. Me and the team gained a lot of confidence from that showing that we were able to take back to Europe. At MSI, teams do not have many options to scrim as many other teams.
Typically for Europe, we do not get S Tier scrims because China and Korea are historically stronger. If you compare that to MSI, when you only have one team from each region, you get more practice against top teams. Performing well against these top teams gives more confidence in your own skill as well. By the end of MSI, we felt we could take down top Korean and Chinese teams which really helped with confidence building.
Going to MSI and having a decent showing was super important to building off of our LEC title.
Sage Datuin: Let’s talk about your involvement with Mad Lions. You have been a part of the organization back when it was still Splyce back in 2018. Talk to me about this four year journey with the org and how you grew? Do you also feel like working with rookies helped you ease into that head coach role too?
MAD Mac: It honestly depends on your personality type. Some people are more suited to coaching veterans. People I think better suited for coaching veterans are people who are blunt and straight shooters with improvement. I myself am a bit conflict averse as a person. My coaching style is softer and I tend to take into account player’s emotions which is really good for younger players in the pro scene.
Outside of that, a lot of growth has been done since joining Splyce. I feel like I am discovering more about what makes me strong as a person and coach. The philosophies I have developed are ingrained into my head and now my coaching style is an extension of those philosophies I live by. You cannot coach in a way that is not authentic to you and I feel like I am discovering my authentic self. I realized that I am a very empathetic person who cares about how criticism can affect a players mentality.
My coaching style is to empower players to perform well and guide them towards the right direction. That is a lesson I took from Peter Dun when he was on Splyce before. Being a competitor in any field forces you to keep thinking of ways to become better. That is something very important to me and it is a blessing.
Sage Datuin: I spoke to Peter Dun during the 2021 LCS Summer Split about his coaching philosophies. He told me his role as a head coach is to oversee the entire League of Legends division and divide out responsibilities to each person a part of League. How do you like to divide the attention and preparation between different staff at Mad Lions?
MAD Mac: The head coach has two major roles in my opinion and it has been the same ever since I started working with Peter before. Being a head coach is built around culture setting and figuring out what you want the organization to be. There actually might be three laughs because there is also long-term planning which is second. I am paying attention to player growth and how they are developing. This is not just for players too. I am doing this for everyone involved with the Mad Lions League of Legends team. It is important to hire the right people and make sure they are also getting better at helping the players in the space I need them to excel in.
Lastly, as a head coach, you need to have great interpersonal management. As a coach, I need to set everyone up for success and allow them to do things they are best at. This year actually, I have stepped back a lot when it comes to the daily grind of watching a lot of League of Legends. Now I am preparing loads of stuff on how to help people and players individually. I am so much more focused on creating notes on how each person and player can improve which also builds my relationship with each person.
This has paid dividends in the growth for Mad Lions this year as we are two-time LEC champions. People are now becoming exceptional at the things they were great at and it is awesome. All in all, my role as a head coach has the same core, but it has evolved in where I divide up my time and efforts. Now, I put so much focus into listening to my players and making sure they feel okay. My coaching staff supports me in all of this as well. They make sure I do not miss any key points I want my players to know. Each person fills their specific niche correctly. We are all putting focus into the things that make us great and enjoy the most.
All of this naturally creates a culture of hard work because the work is something that gives us fulfillment as well. This culture that we created is really good now and it is nice.
Sage Datuin: The community can be very harsh after any type of loss or bad performance. Do you have any final words to the community and Mad Lions fans?
MAD Mac: Thank you to everyone who has followed me on my journey to head coach ever since I joined Splyce. All the support you give me on social media means so much to me and it is greatly appreciated. Mad Lions has a lovely community because of this and I am grateful to continue my journey with this organization.
I hope that we can be people who are fun, open, honest and happy. Aside from that, sorry for today. I take full responsibility for our game against Team Liquid. That draft was on me.
Make sure you reach out to some of our players and show love to them. It is very difficult when the entire world is watching you and today, our players did not have the best showing today. That is on me. So please, send them some kind messages because those words really go far for a group of young players. It is always appreciated.