Made in Serbia: YNk’s Overrated Coaching Adventure

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Made in Serbia: YNk’s Overrated Coaching Adventure

Rarely is a coaching move considered a high-profile transfer in the world of CS:GO, but Janko “YNk” Paunović’s decision to exchange broadcast desks and fancy suits for a MiBR jersey grabbed the attention of the community. However, it’s worth taking a critical look at his tenure with the Brazilian-American side. No matter how many times his happy smiles and high-fives made it onto our screens between rounds won by FalleN’s men, the fact remains that the team failed to take down a single meaningful title while he was present, hit many embarrassing lows and ultimately ended up bringing in a replacement for both him and Stewie2K.

What kind of clout do you bring with yourself as an analyst in a coaching role? In YNk’s case, he has quite literally seen it all. A professional player in both the 1.6 and GO era, successfully making a transition to the broadcasting side of things by diligently climbing up the entirety of the ladder, starting out as an observer and eventually becoming the undisputed number one analyst in the scene, he’s basically excelled at anything he tried in the Counter-Strike universe. In many ways, his transition of a coaching role was merely a new adventure for the man who has seen and done it all behind the desk. It made sense in a scene where broadcast talent’s remuneration and job safety are not even close to what the staff of top-performing teams can rely upon. Eventually, he accepted one of the many offers he’s received to fulfill such a position – interestingly enough, only after rejecting MiBR themselves the first time in June. The hype was real: could this unorthodox move, the arrival of a superstar of a slightly different discipline propels the return of the struggling Brazilian core?

Less than five months later, the story has reached its abrupt conclusion as the swap deal between FalleN’s side, and Team Liquid saw the exchange of Stewie2K for TACO and zews. No official announcement has been made so far about the Serb’s next position in the scene. Has he done enough for another top-ten side to consider him as their sixth man in the soundproof box? While the coverage of his tenure was relentlessly positive, you might want to take it all with a grain of salt. For what it’s worth, YNk himself also seems to accept that things could have gone better, though, like so many others out of their depth, he blamed his failures mostly on the lack of authority in a recent HLTV interview. One has to wonder what he was expecting in that regard, knowing full well how CS:GO teams operate in 2018.

No discussion of his coaching job would be complete without a look at the borderline sycophantic coverage MiBR got off the back of this move as his presence essentially guaranteed a positive twist on the desk discussions for months on end. It’s worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy: the excellence of our ex-colleague validates our analysis. Therefore we are incentivized both on a personal and a professional basis to emphasize his highs.

Casters regularly framed the tactical timeouts as YNk’s time to call and make an impact, a treatment usually reserved to IGLs during those broadcasting lulls. Even in the case of Astralis, gla1ve is the main focus of such periods in the discussion rather than zonic. For most other sides with even more of a low-profile coach, the cameras tend to focus on the feverish debate between the five players, headsets on, eyes blazing instead of the theatrics of the coach behind them. Whatever the inner workings may have been in MiBR, YNk’s preferential treatment from the broadcasters didn’t stem from his incredible input.

That’s not saying coaches aren’t impactful – if they weren’t, Valve wouldn’t have stepped in to make sure they could only communicate with the team during tactical timeouts instead of the entirety of the match –, and it would be entirely unfair to suggest that the Serb’s stint away from the desk was a Gary Neville-esque catastrophe. The improvements to FalleN’s individual displays certainly had a lot to do with the reduced workload on the IGL of a team that hasn’t had a coach before. However, while there indeed were occasional flashes of brilliance on the server that teased the return of the old form of this core, the results don’t bear out the suggestion that YNk’s excellent descriptive abilities as an analyst transformed MiBR into a real contender.

On first glance, the team’s overall results over this period seem relatively impressive with a title win, two final appearances, and three top-four showings out of nine LAN events. However, a more in-depth look at their specific wins and losses seem to indicate that they’ve struggled to make an impact against the top teams in the scene, though they did have mousesports’ number in the latter months of 2018, beating them on four different occasions. Meanwhile, their overall results against Astralis read 1-7 in the series score, including the infamous 0-16 defeat at the major – an event where they would only beat G2, NiP, compLexity, and mouz on their way to the semis. They also have a negative record against Na’Vi (1-2), Team Liquid (0-3) and FaZe (1-3 and a draw) over the same period.

Perhaps all of this is a moot point. After all, he has essentially been replaced by zews at the end of the year, cut short after a set of results so disappointing that the organization opted for a lineup change. In a way, the most fantastic part of this story is how expertly he has managed expectations: joining a high-profile team on a downswing, many stated at the start of his adventure that he could hardly come out of it looking poorly. Still, would any other top-ten side consider to pick him up for a coaching role on the back of these showings? Is he the sort of elite coach that deserves the level of positive coverage he’s got? Is he even an above average one? It’s a sign of the relative infancy of esports and the byzantine nature of the teams’ inner workings that it is so difficult to provide a definitive answer for these questions. According to an oft-quoted statistic from Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s Soccernomics, the average impact of a coach or a manager in football is negligible. Even if the ratio happens to be similar in Counter-Strike, it seems like we would all benefit more from having him behind the analysis desk rather than as part of a team setup.

Image via: @YNk

Luci Kelemen
Luci 'YelloRambo' Kelemen is a veteran writer mostly focusing on the industry side of esports and the design specifics of card games like Hearthstone and Artifact. His work is featured on PC Gamer, Tempo/Storm, and many other gaming sites. Twitter @luci_kelemen.