An hour after Team SoloMid (TSM) announced the departure of Tony “Zikz” Gray from their League of Legends roster, 100 Thieves hastily welcomed him as their new head coach, assisting Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith as a part of 100 Thieves’ management staff for 2020, pending Riot’s approval.
Welcome @Zikzlol, our new League of Legends Head Coach!
Zikz is one of the most well-respected coaches in the scene, earning 2x LCS Championship titles & a 2nd place at MSI. We're so excited to bring his experience to 100 Thieves & look forward to building 2020 with him! #100T pic.twitter.com/680SPxF5Wu
— 100 Thieves (@100Thieves) November 11, 2019
One of the most valued coaches in North America, Zikz famously earned the region’s joint-highest finish at an international tournament with Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) at the 2016 Mid Season Invitational, while also winning two domestic titles in 2015 Summer and 2016 Spring with CLG.
Ahead of the North America League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) rebranding to the League of Legends Championship (LCS), Zikz left CLG and joined their age-old rivals TSM in October 2018. The move from one North American powerhouse to another did not result in the same amount of success for Zikz. Losing in the 2019 Spring Playoffs finals versus Team Liquid and failing to qualify for the 2019 World Championships after dropping out of the Regional Qualifier versus Clutch Gaming.
Zikz shared his gratitude towards the TSM members in a tweet after the roster swap announcement, but also expressed his concerns in regards to coaching under TSM’s banner in the 100 Thieves Twitter announcement video. Quoting Tony from the announcement video, he states:
“I think, one of the biggest reasons why I decided to make this move was, within TSM I didn’t feel a very very strong alignment, but talking a lot with PapaSmithy, just philosophically like how he views running a team and how he views roster-building just everything aligns so well that, it was a decision that was very easy for me to make”.
Despite the small hint of negativity towards his prior coaching experience, he seems positive and optimistic about his upcoming opportunity with 100 Thieves.
It is clear the direction the new General Manager, PapaSmithy, and new head coach Zikz intend to take 100 Thieves on heading into 2020, adopting the philosophy of developing young, eager North American talent rather than importing players from overseas, as historically, the import of talent has not found North America much success on the international stage.