Former T1 head coach Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun has rejoined the team and fans are both excited and confused.
T1 fans have something to be excited for during the offseason. The team is just coming off a victory at Worlds 2023 where it took the Summoner’s Cup and smashed esports viewership records. Though it could’ve taken a break, T1 instead announced kkOma’s return. While kkOma is arguably the most credentialed coach in League of Legends esports today, his signing left many scratching their heads.
Signing a name as big as kkOma certainly wasn’t just for fun, but T1 has evidently found the recipe for success. So why did T1 sign him and what makes him worth bringing back after all these years?
Who is kkOma?
kkOma is regarded as one of the best coaches in competitive League of Legends, and was the coach behind T1’s first three world championships. He also helped the team to winning two MSIs and several LCK titles. Most recently, he coached Team South Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games international sporting event.
kkOma parted ways with T1, then known as SK Telecom T1, in 2019 after a series of disappointing results. The coach had a brief stint in the LPL and returned to the LCK in 2020 when he joined Dplus KIA where he stayed through 2022. In 2023, he served as head coach for South Korea’s League of Legends team at the 2022 Asian Games. The squad featured three T1 players, including Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
T1 keeping Tom as coach, plans to keep roster intact even with kkOma
Tom will remain coach of T1 after winning Worlds 2023 and the organization is reportedly seeking to keep its championship roster largely intact heading into 2024.
The announcement of kkOma’s return came days after T1 claimed its fourth World Championship title. Interim head coach Im “Tom” Jae-hyeon will stay with the team, now as a coach. It is unclear if the coaching staff will include more members in the future.
In the meantime, the organization is reportedly hard at work attempting to retain its World Champion roster. The contracts with top laner Choi “Zeus” Woo-je and bot lane duo Lee “Gumayusi” Min-hyeong and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok expired on November 20, the day after the team won the championship. Only jungler Mun “Oner” Hyeon-jun and Faker are confirmed as part of the 2024 roster. The goal is likely to bring back T1’s full roster in 2024.
After his performance at Worlds, Zeus is likely to be one of the most sought-after top laners. On Chinese social network Weibo, rumors started circulating about JD Gaming’s alleged interest in signing Zeus. Other LCK teams might be interested in getting Zeus with Gen.G and Hanwha Life Esports currently looking for a top laner.
kkOma’s recent connection with T1’s players could be a factor in negotiations. As a coach with multiple titles under his belt, he commands respect and he has worked with both Zeus and Keria in the past.