Dpei talks about his return to the Overwatch League

Volamel 2022-06-17 02:28:32
  David "dpei" Pei will go down as a coach that helped to build what we see as modern Overwatch. However, he is not ready for his legacy to end. After parting ways with the Los Angeles Gladiators towards the end of last year, dpei returns to the Overwatch League to reign in the Vancouver Titans in their 2022 bid. Dpei spoke with EsportsHeaven prior to their Midseason Madness debut on his return to competition within the Overwatch League, if he will be building out a staff or signing additional players to the Titans this season, and much, much more.
Could you talk a little about the hurdles you faced in the offseason and on your return to the Overwatch League? What was it like to step outside of the league, did the urge to compete draw you back in or was the decision much harder to reach?  Dpei: It was pretty hard for me. It didn’t feel like a good time to be leaving, especially since most of the coaching positions had been more or less determined at that point. Apart from a couple of assistant coaching spots here and there, most teams had already decided on the direction they wanted to take their team in so it was difficult to slot in anywhere organically. Overall, it felt like a poor time to be leaving OWL as it wasn’t a super planned thing on my end.  Sitting on the sidelines during the offseason was especially difficult as I went from being a coach on a championship-contending team to sitting down at home and watching the OWL broadcast on my computer.  Personally, it was hard because Overwatch had been my entire life. Since around 2015-2016, Overwatch has been the entirety of my life, which is odd to say. I love esports, I love competition but truly and honestly, I love Overwatch. I recall a conversation I had with [Sam "face" Merewether] during the offseason. He said something along the lines of “people in the industry don’t have identities outside of the game”. But to me, that wasn’t true at all, I just really enjoyed coaching and being around the game. You are what you do. You are what you eat, and I ate a lot of Overwatch for the last however many years. So looking back at the offseason, it felt like an eternity.  I remember something that [Ji-hyeok "birdring" Kim] told me on the beach in Hawai’i. He was telling me that he was retiring and I told him I didn’t want him to retire but that I understood where he was coming from. He turned to me and said something that gave me a lot of strength and reassurance during the offseason: “I really want you to win a championship, I know you can. You’re a really good coach.” That moment made me realize that I wasn’t done competing. I wanted to win for the both of us.  I actually had another potential opportunity with a different org, but that ultimately fell through. I was leaning in Vancouver’s direction anyways because working with that org embodies what I love about coaching. I want to be able to build something there. The Gladiators were my baby for the past four years, truly and honestly, and it’s gone through two ownership changes between the Sentinels and Kroenke. It had sentimental value to me.  There were a lot of things going through my head in the offseason where I was in charge of the Gladiators. Roster construction took a toll on me. We had just lost to Atlanta and maybe I'm a bit of a sore loser or something, but it took me a while to process those losses. I had put everything I had into the prior season and when you lose it’s very emotional. It was really tough to leave that behind, but the past is the past. Now that I’m here in Vancouver I want to build something that I am truly proud of. After my retirement, I’d like to look back on my time here in Vancouver with fond memories.  The public really doesn’t have a clear picture of what the offseason looks like for a coach, so could you explain a little bit of the process around being courted and brought into the fold with Vancouver? Did you have other offers on the table? Has this been in the works for a bit?  Dpei: Let’s be honest; esports is a very enigmatic thing. For the Titans, I saw some of their losses and I thought I could help the team a lot. Later on in the interview process, Justin Hughes disclosed to me that the other coaches were leaving and that I could be Head Coach and solo coaching. So it was all kind of a coincidence I think. Between internal discourse and lucky timing, things sort of just worked out in the end. It wasn’t planned.  You mentioned that during your interview process, the GM at the Titans referred to this as a “solo coaching” job. Can you confirm that or are you guys in the process of building out the staff?  Dpei: The organization said that they would be on the lookout for assistant coaches down the line but ‘as of right now you would be signing for a solo coaching position.’  To be honest, I’m fine with that. Rather than rushing to sign a coaching staff that isn’t the right fit, I would much rather take our time to find people who believe in what we’re trying to achieve here. It’s interesting because it sort of goes back to that Contenders vibe for sure and I’m really enjoying that right now.  Getting to brass tax, the Vancouver Titans have not had an amazing start to 2022. Be it style, culture or something in between, what were some of the first things you wanted to change within the team once you first landed in Vancouver?  Dpei: I was looking in from the outside just like most of you, but when I finally got the chance to see some of the team’s VODs, I realized that you never truly know what’s going on behind the scenes until you enter your first day of practice.  I needed to figure out what our win condition is for the season, what our best lineups are and what comps we were going to play. Another big thing for me was working on our fundamentals. Starting from the ground up and working on strengthening our team’s in-game knowledge and teamwork was a top priority. Once you get those two things going, we can dive deeper into specific details. That’s what I’m trying to achieve right now with my players, teaching them how to problem solve in-game by themselves. Overwatch is a very dynamic game. I think every team is different and every situation is different so you need to be able to solve the problem yourself while in-game. And to their credit, the team is looking a lot better than they did on day one.  We’re making a lot of progress but it’s definitely going to be a challenge for our matches next weekend. In the long term, building a culture from the ground up is important. What type of team are we going to be? What type of attitude do we have? What type of mentality am I trying to lead? It’s really hard to find balance when you look at the game for twelve hours a day but it can’t happen unless you try.  It’s all about finding balance. You can talk a lot about leadership, you can talk a lot about culture, but that’s not how you can foster a positive culture. It exists from positive actions. Being able to address problems and criticizing the play, not the person--all of these things are really important and take time to create.  Are there any plans to sign additional talent to the Vancouver Titans lineup in the coming months or do you feel well equipped to handle the season as the team stands now?  Dpei: I’m trying to figure out what we’re exceptional at and to see if we need to make any changes. Right now, I’m on the train of making it work more than anything. Like I said, the main thing I want to do here is work on culture and make sure everyone is comfortable.  Defining expectations is important in this space and moving into a brand new team mid-season cannot be an easy task. Could you talk to us a little about what success looks like for you as the head coach of the Vancouver Titans? Are you locked on the 2022 title or are we looking for long-term?  Dpei: My goal is to make play-ins and it’s definitely possible. We will need to pick up a lot of wins against teams that are viewed as ‘better than us’ and we will have to get a lot of upsets. For me, that means we will have to do well in the third tournament cycle. We’ll actually need to go to LAN and advance to make up for the losses in Kickoff Clash. It is a very hard task for us but not impossible.  A championship isn’t the expectation but improving and doing the best we can is what we’ll work towards. That is the goal for the season and the goal that I set out to accomplish when I signed for this team. I think everyone in the organization understands where we need to go. After play-ins, it’s anyone's game.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel. Additionally, visit Esports Heaven to keep tabs on more games. Images via Blizzard Entertainment

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