THE MPL-PH normally hands down a list of awards to the individuals who have made leaps and strides for each season.
The names and moments in this season list have becomic iconic— like that time when Carlito “Ribo” Ribo Jr. bagged the MVP awards in Season 1 even though he played the support role, ultimately proving that the backend roles, which were once frowned upon, have a huge level of importance in playing Mobile Legends.
Or how about that redemption arc when Edward “Edward” Jay Dapadap became Finals MVP after spending his first few seasons in obscurity?
However, it can be noted that most of the awards are given to the players — while the brilliant minds behind their success have been overlooked. Every organization competing in the MPL has acknowledged the importance of these tacticians and we’re hoping that an award dedicated to them will finally be implemented alongside the usual MPL annual awards.
If ever there would be a Coach of the Season award, here are our ideal candidates.
Coach Panda’s so-called “pandamentals” are helping RSG PH
At first, it seemed Coach Brian “Panda” Lim’s glory days were already behind him. After helping ArkAngel win the coveted MPL-PH trophy back in Season 3, his career started to spiral downward.
A disastrous title defense in Season 4 was the beginning of his collapse, as ArkAngel embarrassingly failed to reach the playoffs.
Though he managed to redeem himself with a gold medal finish in the 2019 SEA Games, the results afterwards were far below the initial success he attained.
His team never reached the main stage in Seasons 5 and 6 and though he managed to finally break through in Season 7, his team was immediately ousted in the regular season.
Things looked to once again repeat in Season 8, as Lim was given a team that was built from scratch, with the final piece of the puzzle the loud-mouthed trashtalker named Elyson Edouard “Wrecker” Caranza.
But against all odds, RSG managed to secure impressive victories, against the once undefeated Onic PH, the M2 World Champions Bren Esports, and the SEA kings Omega Esports.
None of these were possible without the guidance of the so-called Korean popstar lookalike, who was integral in molding the super rookies, Nathanael “Nathzz” Estrologo and Jonard Cedrix “Demonkite” Caranto.
Perhaps it was wrong to rule Panda out, since he could once again deliver a “pandamonium” to all his foes.
A new dawn for Coach Yeb
If last season was a disaster for Coach Denver “Yeb” Miranda, given his 0-13 record with Cignal Ultra, this season became his redemption arc.
Onic PH bedazzled fans with their split pushing antics at the beginning, but their obra maestra came when they were the first and only team to defeat Blacklist International in Season 8.
And no, they didn’t win over them with the rumored controversial “pause strat” that fans have been mocking them for. In fact, they swept the codebreakers and defending MPL-PH champs with conviction.
It was a decisive way to silence their critics, who argued that they cheated their way against Omega Esports. This incident further emphasized his importance to the team, as someone who stands in the heat of battle to defend his players from any form of online harassment, proving that coaching is more than just the Xs and Os.
A genius masterstroke from Coach Zico and his partner in crime Midnight
At the beginning of the season, Nexplay EVOS didn’t look like a playoff contender as the team was plagued with awkward teamfights. By watching the early games of Nexplay, one could conclude that they were suffering from chemistry issues, felt the pressure of the franchise system, or worse, played like they belonged in the amateur scene.
However, some tactical changes have helped them avenge their early defeats, even going as far as becoming a dark horse title contender. Both John Michael “Zico” Dizon and Neil “Midnight” De Guzman managed to make crucial tactical adjustments that secured them a surprising 3rd place finish in the regular season.
Initially it started with the timely return of Renejay “RENEJAY” Barcarse, but the ultimate game changer came from the decision to partner him with Jhonwin Dela Merced “Hesa” Vergara. The former’s aggressive playstyle complimented the latter’s calculated outplays, which in turn relieved the pressure away from Tristan “Yawi” Cabrera.
And the results proved to be a difference maker as Nexplay EVOS nearly gave Blacklist International a run for their money with how they systematically dissected them in their recent matchup.
No longer are they jokingly branded as the “8th placers” as the tandem of Zico and Midnight have changed the team’s fortunes.
Coach BON CHAN’s uncrackable enigma
Boring, dull, and repetitive are the usual comments that critics have lobbed at Blacklist International’s tactical gameplan. Who can blame them, given that these antics have been prominent since last season?
And the team’s stubbornness to stick to their signature gameplan could’ve been a risky endeavor, as they were already decoded in the MSC 2021 finals by Execration.
But as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that is exactly what Coach Kristoffer “BON CHAN” Ricaplaza did.
Seeing the prowess of his approach, and bolstered by the arrival of Salic “Hadji” Imam, he made crucial adjustments in his gameplan, leading to one of the most historic runs in the regular season as they ended up with a record breaking 11-0 record, which was eventually thwarted by Onic PH.
The critics could go on rambling about their unending loops of “UBE” strats and more “UBE” strats, but a closer look from their matches reveal that there is more strategic depth from Coach BON CHAN that’s worth analyzing.
But it’s not about his tactics that define him as the incident involving Kiel “OHEB” Soriano’s inappropriate hand gesture reveal him as a man of principles.
Who do we think deserves to be crowned as Coach of the Season?
Choosing among these four tacticians is a tall order as each has contributed to their team’s overall success this season.
However if we were to choose one, we would go for Onic PH’s Coach Yeb given his stance against player harassment, leaving important food for thought to a community that has often been plagued with toxicity.