Kukdae coach slumped, early team performance bottomed out…big comeback after June
‘Best treatment’ re-signed early before PS start…KS championship is all he cares about
Reporter Kwon Hyuk-jun = Lee suffered a major setback as a national team coach before the season even started, and after the season started, the team fell to the bottom of the standings amid the departure of main players. It seemed that the ‘steel magic’ was not working. This is the story of KT Wiz head coach Lee Kang-chul.
Even he said, “It’s going to be tough this year.” But then the magic happened again, and Lee was able to finish the regular season with a smile on his face.
On the 11th, KT announced that it had signed Lee Kang-cheol to a three-year contract through 2026 for a total of 2.4 billion won ($600,000 down payment and $600,000 annual salary). This is the highest contract for an active manager, surpassing SSG Landers coach Kim Won-hyung’s three-year total of 2.2 billion won.
Lee’s season has not been easy. Before the season, he led the national team at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), where they suffered back-to-back losses to Australia and Japan and were knocked out in the first round. The poor results led to a lot of criticism of the manager, including his selection and use of players.
To make matters worse, KT’s situation after the start of the season was not good. Pitchers such as Kim Min-soo and Joo Ju-kwon, who had been touted as must-win pitchers, and key outfielders such as Hwang Jae-gyun and Choi Jae-dae suffered from a series of injuries.
By the start of June, KT was at the bottom of the standings. A turnaround seemed unlikely.
But that’s when KT’s “magic” began. In June, one by one, the injured players started to return and the team started to stabilize as substitute outside hitter William Cuevas took over the starting spot.
June 15-8 (0.652), July 13-6 (0.684), August 19-4 (0.826). With an unbelievable 47 wins and 18 losses (0.723) in three months, KT quickly rose to the top of the table. They went from last place to second place and within striking distance of the pack leaders, the LG Twins.
Although they faltered a bit in September and failed to catch up to the leaders, it was a remarkable turnaround for a team that started June in last place to punch their ticket directly to the playoffs.
A three-month run of better than a 7% winning percentage could not have been accomplished by just a few players. Moreover, considering that the team was without its main batsman Kang Baek-ho, “homegrown ace” Choi Min-joon, and fifth starter Uhm Sang-baek due to injuries, it can only be said that the entire team, led by head coach Lee Kang-cheol, was strong.
“The players didn’t give up easily, and I wasn’t very good at running a fast-paced game,” Lee said, “I think the team’s cohesion and self-esteem were built up by experiencing the postseason several times.”
And KT responded to the coach. KT was the first of the 10 teams to finish their regular season schedule, and the next day they gave him the “gift” of a new contract. Lee is now guaranteed another three years, until 2026.
Lee took the helm in 2019 and led KT to its first postseason appearance in 2020 and the franchise’s first overall title in 2021. Last year’s semi-playoffs were also a big part of KT’s success as an ’emerging powerhouse’.스포츠토토
Having finalized his third contract ahead of ‘fall baseball,’ Lee now has his sights set on the postseason. KT is looking forward to another ‘magic’ season, starting in last place and dominating the Korean Series.