NeiL_M: "Being more ballsy and reacting to kills we're getting [is what I brought to Grayhound]"
An in-depth interview with Neil "NeiL_M" Murphy brings details about him parting ways with the Imperial core, the rough time he had while looking for a new team, and details about how he fits into Grayhound.
Grayhound once again impressed at IEM Sydney, making it all the way to the final group stage match after initially falling to MIBR. Christopher "dexter" Nong and co. ran through the lower bracket, beating Heroic, FaZe with Janko "YNk" Paunović, but fell to the eventual runners-up fnatic in a three-map series.
Following Grayhound's 7-8th place finish at IEM, we sat down with NeiL_M, the team's Irish trial-coach, to hear about his search for a new home, his connection with Nemanja "nexa" Isaković, and his style of coaching.
Lets start with when you parted ways with Imperial late last year. Three of the Imperial players went to Valiance, what happened then? Was there an option of you going to Valiance as well?
I didn't go to Valiance and it was mostly the organization that didn't want me, not the players. It was meant to be that I was actually going to go with the guys, but then the organization didn't want to pick me up... because I was trying to defend the players on contract issues. So when I was trying to look out for the players, the organization didn't really agree with that and they told me they were going to sign me in a week or so—and meanwhile they signed nexa and all that kind of behind my back.
So when nexa came to me and told me "don't worry about it" it was too late because they already signed him and I was kind of screwed. So I just said that it is better if I found a new team, and I wanted the best for the players as Imperial folded, we had nothing, we had no events to play, we didn't even have MDL and Valiance had MDL. And nexa always wanted to play with huNter so it was best for them to go and it was the best for me [to find a new team] because I don't think I would've had a stable contract in Valiance. I thought it was best for me, not that the guys didn't want me, just for my career, to look for a new team.
So there was no bad blood between you and the players?
No, not at all! nexa is still my best friend in CS, I still get along with EspiranTo very well, so there is no tension. There was nothing along the lines of people wanting to kick me or not bring me along, it is just that unfortunate what happened, organization-wise, why I couldn't go.
Tell me about that connection between you and nexa, how did that happen? It feels like you have a specific bond?
Yeah, we always kind of trolled each other on Twitter, but it is more motivational as well. I had a special connection with nexa when I came into Imperial, it was MANS NOT HOT at the start. I got along with him so well. We see the game in the same way, we know mental-wise what we can fix, who is the problem for example, what we can work on. So we got along so well.
He really didn't want to IGL when we went to DreamHack Montreal and StarSeries, but we couldn't find an IGL that could fit into the team and I felt that he was the most natural person because, when we had IGLs, he was always mid-round calling and he always reads the game so well. So I felt we could do something, maybe I and he work together and make it comfortable for him. But he never really wanted to do it, he never felt comfortable even though he was still fragging really well.
It was just that, me and him, we connected so well, in the game and outside the game. As I said, he has been the favorite person I have ever been in the team with and probably ever will, to be honest. I hope one day we will be reunited in a team, I'm sure we will.
How did you come into coaching with the MANS NOT HOT project? Were you coaching before, how did that come to you?
It was mostly in the UK scene, to be honest. I did a Gfinity Elite Series with team Infused, I also did a Benelux/UK team, it was CRUC1AL, monu, kajsk1ng, mole and AaroN, two from the UK and three from Benelux. We did pretty well but we kind of peaked at the wrong time, when there wasn't a lot of money. We were one game from the Minor, we lost to SK magiskb0y, pimp, friis. We did really well but then CRUC1AL got bought by Splyce and the team kind of fell apart. That was my only European team that I was comfortable with, that had a bit of success, but again the money wasn't there so the guys couldn't go full time.
What attracts you to coaching in general?
I used to be an in-game leader in 1.6 so I felt like I was always a leader kind of person, but then when I was in Imperial I was more like a father figure. I was the coach and the manager so I did the work inside the game, helped the guys mentally, made sure all they had to focus on is the game.
I feel like I can get the best out of players, not by teaching them so much in the game, but from outside of the game, as in being confident in themselves. nexa, he didn't have a good time in Renegades, he was never confident in himself, and that came over to Imperial for the first two or three months. He wasn't the amazing nexa, he was just an average guy and mentally, lets say we lose a bad game, he would be like "Oh for fu** sake, we are fu**ed". I kind of helped him, I said: "Think about yourself here, think about what you are doing there. You are pissing yourself off, and you are pissing your teammates off. You are the person we need as the rock of the team".
Then he learned with more and more events and he had more belief in himself that he is a really really good player and towards the middle of 2018 he was playing amazing on LAN, having amazing ratings. So I feel like I can bring that in the person, I can bring the best out of people. That is my strong point as a coach, I have a unique coaching technique compared to other coaches.
Let's go back to after the Imperial stint, where did you move from there? Because the only thing that officially happened was the x-kom stint which was pretty short, but in between, there was a lot of time when you were teasing things on Twitter, a lot of possibilities... What was on the table?
Yeah it was a very bad spell for me, to be honest. I was with ViCi for two or three weeks before the Asia Minor, did some scrims with them, but I just couldn't connect with them inside the game our outside the game. So I decided to not go forward with that. I was gonna go to America and then they were going through a really bad spell, but it was more the organization and visas. I told them that I want to bring my other half with me as well and they agreed to that and then they decided, after Christmas, that they don't want it. That screwed me over big time, I lost a lot of motivation when that happened, I thought "Where am I going to go from here?". I really didn't know where I was going to go, I even thought about quitting, to be honest, focusing on my life in 2019, it was a really bad spell for me.
x-kom came to me and I thought it was going to be good because the organization is pretty decent but when I went to the bootcamp, I even said to the management that I don't really feel it, before I was even announced. I wasn't really connecting with the guys, I wasn't a part of the team, really, in my opinion. And the management was... they didn't let me go my own kind of thing. For me, it was not comfortable, I'm constatly getting phone calls and stuff like that, "What is going on? You are losing a practice?". That is not how CS works. So when I got announced I was losing more and more motivation, I was never motivated to be in that team. I came to the management and said "This is not for me. I'd rather say it now than three months down the line and take a load of money in the meanwhile". I just knew it wasn't for me so I stepped down instantly.
And then I reached out to dexter when I saw the post and a few guys said to me: "You should do it, you will fit with that team really well, they are lads". You know, I'm kind of a lad as well and I really fit in with them. We thought, both sides, let's try it out. Because obviously and Irish coach coming to an Australian team... it is going to be different, you know? So we were like, let's try it out in some scrims, I spoke a lot with dexter over the week, we kind of had the right vision. I said that I'm not going to change the style that much, I'm going to working more on the mental part and preparation with dexter. In situations where it is going downhill, I can help him figure out what is going wrong, like why they are not refragging, why are they not taking map control.
So coming into Grayhound I was really motivated to come to Sydney, I was really really confident about what we could do. We didn't get off to a great start, even in the first map against Heroic we were 12-3 down, but I always had belief in our CT sides, I knew exactly how Heroic play, I knew our CT was going to be fine against them because, no offense to them, their T sides have been pretty obvious to read. So winning that first map comeback, that kind of got us going. I think that people from the outside can see that we have a great connection together. We are never arguing, the guys are very together, and that suits me very well.
What do you think was the biggest factor you helped Grayhound with, regarding in-game stuff? Maybe bringing some European things to Australia and how that meshed?
I think just being more ballsy and reacting to kills we're getting, for example, not freezing and overthinking stuff. Be confident in yourself and know, for example, on Inferno against FaZe. YNk and AdreN are playing B so the minute you kill two guys, don't wait around, just go. Even if there is one more guy there, you are still going to trade them out, it is still going to be a 3v1. Don't wait around, smoke... you've killed the two guys B, just go.
Before, I feel like they were hesitating, getting together, double-assuring themselves. You can't do that against European teams, in the mid rounds, I think we struggled a lot when we were waiting around because the opponents are constantly going to be looking for information and we were getting picked off on the other side of the map. But coming into day two and three I brought more of a European style, I feel like, to adapt them to stuff.
CT sides, for example, I told to Sico: "If you don't see any control in mid on Inferno, push Short". He was getting a lot of kills on rain falling back to Banana, very crucial kills and info plays. And the refragging was much better on the CT side where I don't feel like they had as much as that before in Grayhound. So I feel like refragging, more confident plays, and believing in themselves, I brought that into the team, for sure.
What is the plan for you going forward, has there been any talk about you staying in the team, can you come to Australia?
I'm not going to be moving to the house, that is 100%, because I have my life at home, and the practice schedule at home actually suits me, the ping doesn't matter for a coach and I'll either be doing 7AM-1PM or 10AM-3PM. I prefer early and done, I don't have to move to the house. I'll probably go over for two or three weeks, bootcamp if needed, stuff like that. But the plan is that it is probably going to be permanent. It seems like that, the management is happy with me, I'm happy with the guys, they seem happy with me. So most likely it is going to be permanent.
Are there any ideas about the team, what they need to improve further?
Definitely the mid-round T-side adaption against EU teams, for example, in Australian practice they can rely on aim a lot more because you don't get punished against them. But against EU teams you are going to get punished if you lose a man advantage. You can't get away with that kind of stuff in Europe. So more working on that, advantageous situation, making sure we refrag, we get on the site properly, just simple things like that on the T-side.
I think our CT improved so much during this event, we had such strong CT sides, 10+ rounds most games. So definitely T-side, adapting against EU teams, to be more consistent and try and get better results. Hopefully, if we qualify for Pro League in Montpellier... we are in the last four and that is all online, we have to beat Chiefs, ORDER, and Athletico to get to Montpellier so that is our next goal, to work on that and try to get more experience.
We are hoping to bootcamp in Sweden at the XTRFY HQ, if we do qualify, so that will give the guys more experience, we can bootcamp and practice against better team for a consistent time and they can realize how to play against EU teams more often.
You said you wanted to do some shoutouts to finish the interview?
Yeah, I'd like to say thank you to my good mate nexa, who has always helped me through the rough times, always believing in me as a coach, that really helped me coming into Grayhound, having such a great guy and best friend in the game always support me. He was staying up late for all the games, messaging me, ringing me up after the games. "Unreal coach lad, you are not cat, you are not just a hype coach, you are THE man" and all this kind of stuff. So I just want to say special thank you to him, he has helped me hopefully revive my career and get myself back on the map. I can't thank him enough, basically.