Coach Ogi looks to build on last year’s success

Ognjen Micic, affectionately known as Ogi, knows that nothing comes easy.

The Ottawa native is back for a second season as the coach of Raptors Uprising, representing his home nation on the big stage. Just behind the stage, actually, offering constant advice through a HyperX headset and giving players’ chairs an impassioned smack when they make a good play.

“It definitely means a lot, the whole organization trusts me,” Ogi said. “I feel like we can do great things, and I’m just excited to compete.”

Last season, the league’s first, Ogi joined the Uprising as a draft analyst. While he wanted to be on the sticks himself, having tried out for the league in the combine, Ogi’s veteran experience in the NBA 2K Pro-Am scene made a major contribution to the Raptors Uprising IBM-powered draft process. He continued to work for the team as an analyst when the season began.

“Ogi originally joined us as a draft analyst, but had aspirations to be our Coach,” Shane Talbot, Esports Manager for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, said. “I told him that he needed to earn that title, both in my eyes and the eyes of the players. He did exactly that.”

He took on the Head Coach role just when Raptors Uprising needed it most. Thanks to a brutal schedule, the team began the season just 1-5. But as Ogi transitioned from analyst to head coach, the Uprising took on the shine of a contender. Players found their perfect roles, the lineup found its groove, and the team vaulted up the standings with Ogi urging it on. Raptors Uprising went 7-1 to close out the season and earned the fourth seed in the NBA 2K League playoffs.

“Ogi is a 2K expert with the right fundamentals to be a great coach,” Talbot said. “He knows the game both from a strategic perspective and at a tactical level that consistently opens my eyes to the nuances that make 2K a deep and beautiful game.”

When the offseason came around, Ogi once again tried to qualify for the NBA 2K League as a player. He easily made it through the combine, but narrowly missed making the draft pool, where he most likely would have become the second coach-to-player story in league history (Hawks Talon GC player Devin “DevGoss” Gossett being the first).

But while being a player still means a lot to him, coaching has found a place in his heart. Ogi’s expertise as a player—honed through his years in Pro-Am playing with and against numerous NBA 2K League players—enables him to better connect with and understand his players. In the combine, he played at every position and tested out every archetype, information that now benefits him as a coach.

“I found a new passion in coaching,” Ogi said. “I always loved to watch tape with my guys, it just came naturally. I feel like it was made for me.”

He’s now watching tape with two new players. Ogi is bonding with the new Raptors Uprising draft picks Doza and Slim, and figuring out how each player fits best into the Uprising’s lineup. He continues to build on the relationships he developed with the four holdovers from last season: Kenny, Trey, KingQuai614, and TsJosh. Such a veteran team needs a trusted coach, and Ogi is the perfect man for the job.

“Ogi has a great touch with the guys,” said Talbot. “He knows how to keep people accountable while maintaining a good relationship with the players.”

This year, however, Ogi wants more than a feel-good story. He wants to complete the turnaround that Raptors Uprising started last year and are on the verge of this year. The Uprising began this year slowly, just like last season. The team advanced to the quarterfinals in the TIPOFF Tournament, keyed by a 62-41 win over Mavs Gaming, but started the regular season 0-2.

“It’s been interesting preparing for season 2 and seeing how we’ve defaulted back to some old bad habits,” Talbot said. “But with Ogi’s help I’m confident we’ll work out the kinks and become a team other teams hate to play again this season.”

The Uprising has been here before, as the team climbed out of a deeper hole last season. Ogi knows all about the ups and downs of being a player, and how to turn losses into victories. Few coaches can offer as much all-around depth as Ogi, who has found his perfect role.

“There’s nothing that’s given,” he said. “You have to go earn it.” Ogi has earned his spot as head coach. Now, he wants to earn a championship.