Currently, a total of 36 coaches in KBL and WKBL assist the coach of each team. While there are former star players, there are also coaches who have not received much attention as players. In this corner, I would like to introduce those who were not flashy players but succeeded as leaders confidently. The main character of the April issue turned her attention to the amateur stage instead of coaching a professional team. It is Yun Ho-jin, the new director of Yonsei University. Coach Ho-jin Yun, who did not show much presence during Anyang SBS, retired early and spent time as manager of Anyang KT&G (now Anyang KGC) and personal business. Afterwards, he was hired as a coach at Yonsei University in 2017, and after serving as an acting coach last year, he became the coach this year. We listened to the life story of director Yun Ho-jin, who had many ups and downs.안전놀이터
※This article was published in the April issue of Jump Ball, a basketball magazine.
How did you get started playing basketball?
My family is a basketball family. My grandfather graduated from Korea University, and his father was once selected for the youth team when he was in high school. There are many people who played basketball among my relatives, such as my father’s daughter, aunt’s son, and aunt’s daughter. So from a young age, I grew up watching only basketball at home. The basketball court was also my playground. When he was in the 6th grade of elementary school, he told his father that he wanted to play basketball, but he objected because he was short. He was only about 140cm tall. Fortunately, I grew taller when I went up to middle school, and I started playing basketball when I was in my third year of middle school.
He was evaluated as a promising player during his high school days at Dandae. What kind of player was he?
At that time, I played basketball without knowing how to look cool. Because I knew I was the best. When I caught the ball, I always attacked one-on-one. My parents passed on a good body, so my elasticity was better than other players. I should have polished my own skills at this time, but I think I settled for basketball because it was so easy.
After entering Yonsei University, I spent a lot of time on the bench because I was out of competition with my seniors and juniors.
I suffered a lot. I was unlucky because there were no power forwards in the team at the time, so I, who was relatively short, kept the base of the goal. However, because I lacked physical strength, I had no choice but to be pushed out of the competition. Personally, I should have put in effort to prepare, but I fell behind other people because I was negligent. There were times when I wanted to quit basketball in the middle.
You took a year off from school in your 3rd year, what was the reason?
Yonsei University has established a sisterhood relationship with Brigham Young University in Hawaii, USA. So we had a lot of interaction with each other. At the end of my sophomore year, I went to training camp in Hawaii, and there were many outstanding players on the team, such as Kim Dong-woo, Park Gwang-jae, Jeon Byeong-seok, Bang Seong-yoon, and Choi Seung-tae. Because I was behind in the competition, I wanted to avoid the position, and I also wanted to study. Also, I thought that if I could speak English, there would be many things I could do, such as interpreting, scouting, and acting as an agent. So I prepared to study abroad by asking Brigham Young University coaches and players. But I couldn’t go because I didn’t have enough grades.
In the 2003 KBL rookie draft, he was nominated by Anyang SBS with the 5th pick in the 2nd round.
In the second semester of my junior year, Coach Hee-Am Choi went pro and Coach Nam-Ki Kim became the coach. Coach Kim Nam-gi asked me if I would like to play basketball again. After that, I worked hard and participated in the rookie draft, and I was lucky enough to be selected. I have no regrets about the ranking. Since I went to pro, I was motivated to try hard again.
Wasn’t it regrettable that you only played 16 games in 2 seasons as a pro?
It was very sad. The professional stage is bigger and fierce than the college stage, but I couldn’t make my own weapon. In fact, at that time, players were ignorant about body care. So, I also played around a lot. Still, I worked really hard. I should have worked harder, but I think I was satisfied with myself. There are outstanding seniors at the top, and juniors at the bottom beat and come up, so I retired with one year left in the contract period.
“A leader? I couldn’t even think of it.”
Coach Ho-jin Yun left behind his short career as a player and started a second life as a businessman by opening a bakery and cafe. However, basketball was an inseparable part of him. He joined KT & G as a manager in 2007 and won the first championship of KGC in the 2011-2012 season. He returned to business in 2014 by running a catering business in Hawaii, but started his leadership career in 2017 when he was hired as a coach at Yonsei University.
What was he doing after his retirement?
In fact, when I retired, the team looked at me favorably and asked if I had any plans to work at the front desk. At that time, I thought, ‘I have one year left on my contract, so why should I work for a team that retired me?’ So I declined and went on a trip to America for the first time in my life. At this time he took an interest in business. And he came back and opened a bakery cafe in Bundang. I won first place in daily sales a few times, and it went really well.
He joined KT&G as a manager in 2007.
It’s been about a year and a half since I’ve been running the bakery cafe, and coach Lee Sang-beom, who was the coach at the time, contacted me and asked if the manager was empty. The bakery cafe business was booming, so I accepted the offer with the mindset of trying a two-job job. But the manager’s daily routine is really busy, so I couldn’t manage the store. So, after 2-3 months, I organized the Bakery Cafe. I thought it was a trending industry, so I had no regrets at all.
In the 2011-2012 season, KGC won its first championship together. How did you feel at the time?
It was so good. It’s really not easy to win a pro championship, but the team atmosphere at that time was really good. The sum of the coaching staff, the players, and the front desk matched well. The players came together with Eun Hee-seok and Kim Seong-cheol at the center, resulting in a victory. I don’t think there was even the slightest noise in the team at that time.
At the end of the 2013-2014 season, I quit my manager job and went into my own business in Hawaii.
The older I get, the younger players start paying attention to me. And finally, I wanted to study before it’s too late. So I politely told the team and came out. I was preparing to study in the US, but the consulate did not allow me to issue a visa. I think it was judged that there was potential for a problem because of my age and being married. Around this time, I was introduced to an acquaintance and started a food truck business in Hawaii. Back then, there weren’t as many food trucks as there are now. I ran the business, and an acquaintance provided financial support. At first, I sold desserts, but later I sold Korean food.
You started as a coach at Yonsei University in 2017, what kind of process did you go through?
Director Eun Hee-seok was in 4th grade when I was in 1st year at Yonsei University. And I ate one pot rice at SBS. Even when I went to the team as a manager, I was the best. Maybe you looked at me favorably. To be honest, I refused at first, but he kept contacting me, so somehow I was led to go.
Did you have an original idea of a leader?
I couldn’t stand it. It wasn’t easy to be a leader with my career. In order to be a leader, you need to have good networking, but I haven’t been able to build it solidly. I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t think of it. Thankfully, director Eun Hee-seok made a suggestion, so I tried my best because I could be called by someone else if I had a career.
You must have had a lot of trial and error as a coach?
Director Eun Hee-seok is very meticulous and meticulous. On the other hand, I did business and play in Hawaii, so I couldn’t adapt well to Yonsei University’s knife-like system. There is also a burden on Yonsei University. I joined without knowing anything, but it was not easy. I worked as a coach and manager at the same time, but there was no big problem at work. I think it took some time to get used to.
I’ve been through it as a player, so I think the bench members will stand out even more.
I think they are more strict with players who don’t play a lot on purpose. It makes me proud to see these guys grow. I work hard, but at some point there comes a time when I am satisfied with myself. Then I call them separately and try to stimulate them. A lot of voice actors have been uploaded lately, and I was happy to see them. Anyway, I have to win in the world of competition, so I’m sorry that I didn’t give the bench members a lot of chances.
After joining as a coach, did Yonsei University keep the university league throne until 2021?
Director Eun Hee-seok did everything. Whenever the players were trying to get out of the way, I called them and told them a lot of good things. I tried to tell him that going pro is tough, and gave me a lot of life advice. In terms of basketball, I tried to teach according to coach Eun Hee-seok’s system. Fortunately, the players followed me well, so I think I was able to keep winning.
“The one who survives the competition is the strongest.”
Last year, coach Yun Ho-jin faced another major turning point. As head coach Eun Hee-seok left for the Samsung headquarters in Seoul, he suddenly took over as acting manager. In addition, the bad news of Yang Jun-seok and Lee Min-seo, the core guards, suffered knee injuries. Nonetheless, coach Yun Ho-jin quickly pulled the team together and put Yonsei University in second place (11 wins and 3 losses) in the regular league. Although he suffered an unexpected blow to Konkuk University in the quarterfinal playoffs, he showed potential and was promoted to official coach last March.
Last year, he suddenly took over as acting manager.
It was a really difficult situation. Coach Eun Hee-seok left, and Yang Jun-seok and Min-seo Lee were out for the season due to injuries. The team was in crisis. Still, rather than thinking ‘I can’t do it’, I tried to have the mindset of ‘I can quit after serving as an acting manager for one year’. So I tried to solve each case in front of my eyes, but rather, I didn’t have any thoughts. To be honest, I wanted to beat Korea University and even win the championship, but it was difficult to get there.
What is the difference between a coach and a manager?
When I was coaching, I only did what the coach told me to do. It was the role of helping the director’s system so that there was no off-beat. Becoming a manager gives me a lot of authority, but I want to share everything with the coach. So I asked coach Kim Yong-woo to express his opinion freely. The coach’s opinion will be the main thing, but the coach’s opinion may be right, right? I hope that the director and coach can work together to achieve results.
I think the biggest blow was that Yang Jun-seok and Min-seo Lee were out of the season due to knee injuries.
These days, I sometimes watch last year’s game, but it’s dark. Then, not too long ago, I thought, ‘Did I just push the existing system too hard?’ There were no players available, and we continued to emphasize what we were doing to players with relatively low skills. Still, I tried to become one through many conversations with the players. I regret that it would have been easier if I had tried to break away from the existing system.
They lost to Konkuk University in the quarterfinal playoffs and became the victim of an accident.
I was never conceited. All the plays that shouldn’t have appeared in the game that day. That is also the most important 3 minutes in the last quarter of the 4th quarter. I usually emphasize basic things to the players, but I didn’t fight, so I lost an offensive rebound and conceded a goal, and I neglected defense and got hit by a 3-pointer. Maybe the players are having a hard time, so their concentration is low. It’s not that I disrespect Konkuk University, but it was a shock defeat for me personally.
Even so, you were promoted internally as an official director in March?
The day before the training camp in the US, I received a call from the Athletic Commission. It felt really good. I was so happy that I could fly. Since I am also a human being, I had a wish that I would give it a chance as much as I have devoted affection to it. But I heard a lot of bad rumors around me. It’s not like I’m becoming a director just because I’m greedy now, I’ve been waiting. I think it’s more precious because I know how heavy and responsible the position is while serving as acting manager for a year.
This year, promising players such as Lee Ju-young, Lee Chae-hyung, and Kang Ji-hoon joined as freshmen.
I think that Yonsei University and Korea University continue to stay at the top because good players are in constant supply. The key is how well the players can create synergy. Last year, there were a lot of injured players, so the team lacked a lot. This year, players with strengths came in by position. Actually, I met a lot of people while acting as director. I also appealed a lot.
What kind of basketball do you want to show as a manager?
There are a lot of people available on the team right now. There are Lee Kyu-tae, Kim Bo-bae, Kang Ji-hoon, and Hong Sang-min in the big man, and Lee Chae-hyung, Min-seo Lee, Yu-gi-sang, and Lee Ju-young in the front row. One of the goals is to make the defensive rotation smooth even when 3 out of 4 big men play together. Kyu-tae Lee and Bo-bae Kim want to make it possible to play outside. It’s easier to adapt to the pros if you know how to rotate defensively. I want players to play basketball regardless of position.
I think you showed that you can succeed as a leader even if you don’t get attention as a player?
I didn’t have a flashy player days, but I had hope that ‘I can do it too’ while watching the coaches who won the pro. If you’re good at basketball, you’ll see as much as you’re good at it, but you can’t ignore the fact that you’ve been watching the game from the bench. I hope that even if the players retire early, they will not abandon their dream of becoming a leader. In the end, the one who survives the competition is the strong one. I was also envious of successful players going to the United States to receive leadership training. But they succeeded because they worked so hard. I think that people who climbed from the bottom like me will be stronger when they bump into each other as they climb up while strengthening their internal stability.
Finally, what kind of leader do you want to be?
I promised the players not to get angry during the game. As I tried to work hard, my voice rose without my knowledge. Of course, if you do something you shouldn’t do, you’ll get scolded, but I hope you enjoy playing basketball within the team system. Then the players will be more excited and run around, and I think they will be able to maximize their strengths. I want to hear from people around me, ‘Is the atmosphere at Yonsei University different?’ or ‘The players are working hard despite being so autonomous.’