ImAPet: "I was ready to sign for a VALORANT team, but on the same day I thankfully got the offer from 100T"
We sat down with 100 Thieves' new addition, Chet "Chet" Singh, for an in-depth interview in which the coach spoke about his exit from Evil Geniuses and about his new team, as well as the state of North American Counter-Strike in current times.
The 23-year-old parted ways with Evil Geniuses in early April under somewhat dramatic circumstances, as he and the team had found that they could no longer work together after the relationship between the coach and Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz and Tarik "tarik" Celik had turned sour, with Wilton "zews" Prado replacing the American soon after.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chet was officially appointed as the new head coach of of 100 Thieves, who had been on the lookout for a new person to guide the team ever since they said goodbye to Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović at the end of April, and we used the opportunity to sit down with the LA-based organization's newest member to discuss the past, the present, and the future.
In the interview, the 100 Thieves coach shed some more light on why the relationship with his former EG teammates broke down and drew the curtain on offers he received after his exit. In the process, he revealed just how close he was to making a move to a VALORANT team and talked about what made him feel forced to change games before receiving the last-minute offer from 100T.
Chet naturally also spoke about his time with the Australian team so far, the changes he has already brought to them, and the possibility of relocating from New York to Los Angeles in the future.
You spoke quite candidly about the relationship with stanislaw and tarik breaking down, but why do you think it started deteriorating in the first place? At what point did you realize it wasn't going to work?
I think where things went wrong in terms of what we were doing was pretty much just work ethic. I think it went completely down the drain for a few people and we just didn't seem to have the same visions in mind when it came to things we wanted to do or not to do. Having that tense relationship all the time where things weren't exactly aligned between coach and IGL and even some players and coach, it's just not going to work out. Even things like days off, we couldn't agree on that. Even in the basics we just couldn't get on the same page anymore.
Did this start happening when the results began falling off?
I think we fucked up when we took a week off after the Major, I believe, before New York. That was probably our only week of practice that we could have gotten before going to all these events. And we were already on fire, so we should have just kept going, honestly. I think we learned from that and we probably wouldn't have done it again, but it is a little bit too late kind of a situation, where we learned from it but it didn't really matter at that point because we already committed to so many tournaments for the rest of the year, so there was zero time left to practice for the rest of 2019. It just didn't matter anymore, the time already started running out and all these bad results that came in kind of affected our mentalities.
Looking back, do you think something could have been done differently? Could the relationship have been repaired at any point, or were changes absolutely necessary in the end?
I think the relationship was probably not repairable. I don't know what I could have done or what we could have done as individuals to try to fix whatever happened. It just seemed like we could never get on the same page. Maybe we could have talked it out better and maybe sacrificed some things for each other, but I don't think on either side any sacrifices were wanted to be made by anyone, so I don't think that was a possibility. The relationship was pretty much doomed. It was never going to be repaired.
How do you see zews fitting in instead? Can you see EG getting over their issues with zews behind them?
I think zews is a good coach and I think he can do good things with that lineup, but, overall, I think we really needed a lineup change in the team, to be honest. A lot of opportunities have passed by where most of the lineup changes that were going to be very positive for the team are probably no longer an option, so I think for now they just have to work it out with the new coach and see what they can do. But I definitely think they needed a roster change.
Is that what you thought at the time, before you got cut?
Yeah. Before I got cut, I was approaching EG to make changes, as well. Now it definitely seems like things didn't go my way (laughs). There's not much I can say about that. I wanted changes and it didn't happen. Maybe it was too expensive, maybe it was just not what EG was looking into, maybe the players didn't agree on it, I don't really have any idea. But yeah, I wanted changes.
Tell me about what happened over the following few weeks after leaving EG. How did the 100 Thieves offer come about and why did you say yes? Was there anyone else that approached you at that time?
Without naming names, I can definitely say there were people who made offers to me, but I didn't really see a lot of viability in the competitiveness of their roster. I just took the approach of waiting it out a bit. There was a point where I was going to sign for a VALORANT team.
As a player?
No, as a General Manager, to build the roster, to build the structure, and all that stuff. Since I've been in CS for so long and I kind of know what it takes to have a decent lineup, that's what I was going to do. I was ready to sign it, but the same day I was ready to sign I got the offer from 100 Thieves, thankfully. I love CS a lot, so staying with 100 Thieves and picking them was a great option for me because I see a lot of viability in them being a great team. They just need to work on these small things and experiment a bit and I think they can be a really good team, so I'm glad I got that opportunity with them. I think they have players who can be world-class, so that's why I chose 100 Thieves over changing games and some other CS rosters.
Did you feel forced into VALORANT in the same way a lot of these NA players have? If 100 Thieves didn't come to you, did you not see any other possibility coming along soon enough?
I felt pretty forced, honestly, to sign a VALORANT contract. Not in terms of financials, but I wanted to compete, and I figured if I wanted to compete and take a risk, VALORANT seemed like the perfect opportunity. I didn't see many NA teams, at least at the top level, or even some European teams wanting to change their coaches. It didn't seem like there were many options for me to get back into the top of the competitive scene. Even building rosters was not even an option for me in CS after talking to multiple orgs. I just felt like I had no options besides tier 3-4 teams. Taking a fresh start could have been better for me in a different game, maybe, who knows? But that's what it felt like to me, at least, that I just needed to jump.
How do 100 Thieves compare to EG and NRG, whether it be playstyle-wise or in terms of culture?
There's definitely a big difference in terms of structure. In 100 Thieves they play more team-based CS, while in EG I guess we played more individually and for ourselves, more default. I think that's the biggest difference. Players in 100 Thieves are also ready to change things more willingly than in EG I think, in terms of strats or whatever that I wanted to introduce. It's more experimental right now, we're just in that phase.
I think the players are pretty comparable, all the players are pretty high-skilled and have good communication across the whole team, so I don't think there's too big of a difference player-wise. Maybe the work ethic is a little bit different on this team, but overall it's pretty similar in terms of the types of players you have. You have the really high fraggers, you have a good AWPer, so I think that's pretty similar. I also think 100 Thieves, in terms of culture, they remind me a lot of what NRG used to be with FugLy, where we were actually all friends instead of more of a coworker dynamic that it ended up becoming, so that's definitely a positive for a long term future.
Did you at all find that you had to approach them differently? What have you learned in your time with the team so far?
The first week I was learning what their issues were and things they didn't do versus things they needed to do. One of the things they didn't do was VOD reviews, which I thought was a little crazy. For a top team, I'm surprised they got that far without doing any VOD reviews of themselves or of other teams. I was told that they probably did one to three reviews in a year or something, which is pretty crazy. A lot of my job is facilitating that kind of review, so that's one thing I learned about them that has already changed.
How did the team take that?
I think every player was willing to do it, they had just never done it in a team setting often. They weren't opposed to it at all and I think they enjoy doing it because I find them to be more visual learners than they are from me just telling them, talking like a textbook. I think visual learners are very common in esports and doing VOD reviews is very powerful for this team and many other teams, so I definitely think we're going to keep doing it and I already see it making a big impact on people. It's nothing but positive.
In the past couple of months 100 Thieves have stagnated. In what areas do you think they were lacking before and where can you help them improve? What has been the focus apart from the VOD reviews?
The main focus was pretty much on a strategic level. Whenever we were on EG and we would anti-strat 100 Thieves, or even from playing them so many times, we kind of knew what they would do every time even if we didn't need to prepare for the game. Strategically I felt like we always knew what they were doing, so they needed an upgrade in that sense. We've been working a lot on tactics, varying things up, practicing things that they aren't necessarily comfortable with. We've been going through a big experimental phase, and that's not going to end anytime soon. We're just trying a bunch of stuff and seeing what works and what doesn't. You may see it in matches, even for DreamHack, BLAST, we're going to be trying things that maybe you're not used to seeing 100 Thieves do. Maybe it'll look really bad, maybe it'll look really good, we don't really know yet. We're just trying things, trying to get out of our comfort zones, and trying to get ready for the next RMR [cs_summit 6]. We just want to minimize all the mistakes now in these tournaments and then be really prepared for the RMR.
With the team being based in Los Angeles and you living in New York, are you required to move when it becomes possible? If not, would you consider that?
Yeah, the relocating part isn't an issue for me. I'm just kind of seeing how corona is playing out right now and then I'll mark a date to get out there. For now, it's been going pretty well online, everyone shows up on time, we do our VOD reviews through Discord, so it's pretty much the same thing except I'm not seeing them right now face to face. That is a little bit of a negative, but I think it's not a huge negative. I'm not sure if it's required or not to move to LA, I just assumed I should because everyone else is there. It'd be kind of weird for me to not be there if they are.
Has it been awkward at all from your side to be online while the rest of the team is together?
I don't think it's awkward at all, we just joke around and chill on TeamSpeak, so it's been pretty alright, I haven't had any complaints being online. I get to do my one-on-ones, talk with people about whatever they want to talk about, so it's been pretty OK.
The three biggest teams in NA, Liquid, EG, and 100 Thieves, have all struggled lately, and the arrival of VALORANT has also caused some lower-tier teams like Orgless, Swole Patrol, and Bad News Bears to disband completely. What do you make of the state of North American CS right now?
At first, I thought North American CS was doomed in terms of raw talent threatening the people above like Liquid and EG, I'm not going to lie. But, now, I don't think that's really the case. Obviously, losing IGLs like FNS and freakazoid, even losing talents like WARDELL and Subroza, Infinite, yay, all those people, it kind of sucks and it's going to hurt us in the short term. But in the long term I think it'll have some positive effects. You're going to see newer teams pop up and get experience, IGLs rising up and getting experience in these tournaments that are popping up. You're going to see new talents like Grim, for example. He's been around for a bit, but maybe people haven't put that much attention on him, and I think he's really good. Pretty much everyone from Triumph is putting out a positive message for the scene, that they haven't given up. They are getting paid, as far as I know, but they're not getting paid a lot and they're still grinding really hard, they're getting maps off good teams like Gen.G. They're doing pretty well, so I don't think it's all bad.
The scrimming situation is the only negative right now because there's not a lot of variety in NA and you're kind of playing the same teams over and over and over. We always scrim Brazilian teams because we don't want to scrim teams in the group we're playing in, so it makes things confusing in terms of if your strats are really working or not. You're just playing the same teams who have the same reactions and stuff like that, so you have that downplaying NA a little bit. But, other than that, I think talent-wise you're going to see other teams start popping up, like Recon 5 and Triumph, they're going to start popping up more and more in these tournaments. I think even Envy and Chaos are doing a good job at showing other talents, so I think we're in a short-term negative but a long-term positive.
Has the pandemic especially underlined the practice problem in NA? Is it worse than usual?
Yeah, the pandemic is definitely screwing the practice. Like I said, we're avoiding teams that are in the groups we're going to play in, so we're only playing the teams in the other group. And some of these lower-tier teams aren't playing anything, like Envy, for example, so they have no reason to practice besides just playing to practice. I'm not sure if they are practicing right now. It's just in a tough spot to get variety in practice and sometimes you're not even always getting good practice. People think just because we're in NA we're playing Liquid all the time, but we haven't even played Liquid that much, honestly. They have other teams that they can play against and it's first come, first served when you're booking scrims, so if you miss your opportunity then for that week you're not going to have them. That's just how it goes. It just really sucks because there just aren't a lot of top teams, and no variety is hurting the scene a little.