With Boston headed into the offseason earlier than fans expected, leave it to our Lord and savior President of Gaming Christopher ‘Huk’ Loranger to give an unfiltered Q&A. With fan heat and fury at an all time high, Overwatch League’s most accomplished talent hunter stepped up to the plate. Laid back, honest, and engaging, Huk took responsibility for the team’s lackluster year and offered a path toward a resurgence. Namely, that the coaching staff would get a shake up with the hiring of new head coach – Mineral!
Vytis “Mineral” Lasaitis (pronounced Vee-tus) is the former Head Coach of the Florida Mayhem. I knew nothing about him when Huk made the announcement – only that Florida had a less than Stellar first season (going 7-33). Also, I knew he was part of the great exodus in Florida when they cleaned their roster of international players and went with a full Korean roster earlier this year. Was this guy a bum or a talented, hardworking coach who by no fault of his own was put in an unwinnable situation? More importantly – had Huk done it again? Meaning, is he finding value in players/staff where other teams aren’t looking?
Watchpoint: Lobby had an opportunity to speak with Mineral about his time in Florida, what he’s been up to since being a free agent, and what his hopes are for the Boston Uprising in the 2020 season. Also – he broke down the Boston Celtics’ chances to win the 2020 NBA Championship. Needless to say, he had a lot on his mind.
International Man of Mystery
Born in Lithuania, raised in Sweden, studied in the UK, and a stint in the US with the Overwatch League, makes Mineral one of the more traveled people in the league. According to his Liquidpedia, he played for Luminosity Gaming and both played and coached for Misfit Gaming, making it to second place in Contenders season 1 Europe. This success got him the promotion to head coach of the Floriday Mayhem in its first season in OWL.
Mayhem in Florida
Mineral talks extensively about his time in Florida in an interview with Blake that is well worth your time listening to. I asked him about that first year in OWL. He was frank about the challenges the Mayhem faced. “I think no one was really ready for the workload. You know in terms of having two games a week. I think that was a big change from the sort of an open circuit system that we had in Overwatch before where we go pretty long periods of time between major tournaments or major LANs.” A team with a history like Florida had with the Misfits may have made the transition into OWL more difficult than other teams that started from scratch.
I think anytime you’ve finished with such a poor record, I don’t think there’s any way that there can only be one thing that’s wrong with the team right? Like you’re probably failing on multiple levels because if you’re only failing in one department, then naturally if you’re doing well in others then those aspects will be able to make up for the weaknesses. Honestly, I don’t feel like we were that well prepared for the season.Mineral on obstacles the Florida Mayhem faced in the Inaugural Season
Unfortunately, the Inaugural Season’s 40 game schedule made for a grind. “I think everyone just got overloaded and when you started to see it so poorly I think it’s pretty difficult to bounce back because you’re just kind of taking the punches on the chin” he said. Sadly, Florida became better known for their entrances into matches than what happened after they sat down to play. Little did he know how many changes would be coming his way in 2019.
Florida – Season 2
As everyone knows, the 2019 OWL season was dominated at the start with the GOATs meta. Florida, interestingly, played Boston towards the end of Stage 1 on March 10. I asked Mineral if he had any memories from that match. “We were mostly focusing on ourselves and how to execute the composition [GOATs] and you have to keep teaching your players that rather than focusing too much on tendencies of other teams… they tend to carry a little less weight.” Fortunately for Boston, it didn’t work out for them and the Uprising swept the Mayhem 4-0.
Less than a month later, Mineral was out of a job. I asked him how it all went down. “We had to take a step in one direction. It would either be a heavier mix where we have a more even divide between Western or Korean players or we would just go full Korean. And I was working under the impression that we were going to go for a mixed but obviously, after the stage I made it clear to the management that if we did go full Koreans that it’s not really an environment where I feel I can really work to my strengths – it’s going to be difficult for me to coach,” he said.
Given the poor results of the Inaugural Season and the 1-6 Stage 1 record in 2019, it’s hard to blame Mayhem’s management for wanting a change. I don’t get the sense there was any full responsibility for the team’s lack of success being put on Mineral. The guy was single handedly running an entire team with little support or staff. But the cultural divide that would have happened with a full Korean roster made it easy for an amicable split between him and Florida.
Content Content Content
Since his time as a head coach, Mineral poured himself into Overwatch content creation. “Going into the content was kind of fun because I do have a degree in journalism and it was a pretty seamless transition. I wanted to keep the coaching muscle working so it doesn’t atrophy but also kind of expand my portfolio,” he said about it. He ran a podcast (Tempo Shift), did OWL VOD reviews, streamed personal coaching sessions, analyzed patch/meta updates, and kept his nose to the grindstone.
When Huk made the announcement on Twitch, the first thing he said was, “go look at his reviews and look at the work he’s put in. Everything I have seen and heard from him is he’s very professional and very hard working.” Fans, if you have the time, go to his Youtube page. He has clearly put in the time to create straightforward, accessible content that makes Overwatch more approachable for n00bs but gets in the weeds enough that OWL Stans can appreciate.
Having said he watched every match of the OWL this season, I asked him what he thought the positives and negatives were of Boston’s season. “So it’s very difficult for me without an internal look to pinpoint and tell you. You know, this didn’t work out but these are the aspects that we’re really going to take with us next year. Obviously, I’m trying to get as much of an understanding of what went wrong right now” he said. I was surprised he didn’t want to pander to me – he clearly is a coach that isn’t taking anything for granted going into his new role. It could have been easy to say this or that went right/wrong but he looks to be taking the time to learn firsthand what happened.
Fans know the Uprising will look different next year. True to form, I couldn’t even get him to pick three players he would keep if it were up to him. “I’m not sure I can answer that… I wasn’t really there and I’m trying to catch up going through VODs, trying to familiarize myself with the roster as much as possible, trying to catch up with some of the players,” he said. Come on – we all know Colourhex and Fusions need a reserved spot in next year’s roster!
On the minds of fans and teams alike is next year’s move to true geolocation. Teams will have to develop some plan to travel to/from their home cities and all the issues that presents. I asked Mineral what he thought some of the challenges would be. “Obviously, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of jetlag. I think teams playing at home or at least in their continent are generally going to have a pretty substantial advantage over teams who aren’t,” he shared. This isn’t what anyone hasn’t expected going into next year – but what are some of those specific issues?
“You know, if you’re a Chinese team or hosting a Chinese home stand and you have a team that is flying in from the US or from Europe to play I think you obviously have a pretty substantial advantage just in terms of the whole crowd.”Mineral on what OWL’s geolocation will be like in 2020
Primarily, Mineral was concerned with how teams can conduct practice. “If you’re flying to China and we’re staying there for a couple of weeks, where are we going to practice? If someone is coming to Boston where are they going to set up where they’re going to practice? Who’s gonna be responsible to put in all those things together?” he asked. How teams practice and coordinate these logistics will be part of the competition between teams off-stage.
Mineral is not underestimating the challenge for himself. He explained, “when you’re on the road you’re going to face a lot of challenges – what I’m going to try to do is make sure that the players are on top of their game and make sure that they are feeling well mentally – it’s something that I will stay on top of.” What’s difficult is that this has never been tested before – an international esports league with a 28 game, weekly regular season. How that grind wheres on predominantly young players and staff is anyone’s guess.
It’s clear Huk has found someone humble enough to accept responsibility for the task and focused on his player’s all-around well being. Thinking ahead to next year’s travel, Mineral said, “I have a responsibility to prioritize my players and make sure that they are in the best mindset to work and I think that’s especially going to be a challenge on the road.”
To the Fans
Having spoken about his experience in Overwatch and his hopes for next year, I talked to Mineral about the fans. Fortunately, the Uprising faithful have always showed up in droves to watch parties, fan events, and engaging with the team. Given the disappointment around this year, did he have anything he’d want the fans to know?
“I know that the season was tough obviously, especially considering how well the team performed year one. The team naturally fell short of expectations. Coming in I will say, I can promise you, and guarantee, that from the bottom of my heart I am going to give everything that I have to make sure that we have a quick turnaround. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that actually happens. It’s a very competitive league and it’s very difficult to win. And I’m going to make sure I do whatever I can do to push us in the correct direction. Hopefully, we’ll return to the winning ways next year.”Mineral’s message to the fans
Bonus – Celtics 2020 Hopes
Randomly, Mineral mentioned his momentary aspiration to be a writer around the NBA. I couldn’t let that go – what does our new Head Coach think of the Celtic’s chances this year? “I think everyone was very excited about the championship prospects with Kyrie Irving these last few years so there’s disappointment in that regard,” he said. I tried to tell him Irving is referred to as He Who Shall Not Be Named around here. He gets it. “But I like the addition of Kemba Walker – he’s showing pretty decent with team USA as well and he’s a terrific player,” he explained. I was impressed that he was as well versed in the NBA as he was.
But what about the Celtic’s chances next year? Mineral spoke deliberately, “I’m not sure whether the Celtics have a shot at the title. I think they’re one of the stronger Eastern Conference team. But I just think there are so many teams over in the West that are stacked. So, let’s see what happens to them.” Alright Uprising fans – we’ll have to work to help him see how good our basketball team is. Just like our Overwatch League team – destined for great things in the upcoming season.
I want to thank Mineral for taking the time to speak with us just 48 hours after being announced as the new Head Coach of the Boston Uprising. Follow him on Twitter and look out for the Boston Uprising to return when they open the season February 9th in New York against the dreaded Excelsior.