Chicago Fire hires Hamlett


                                                                                                Photo by ISI Photos

When the Chicago Fire’s search to replace departed head coach Juan Carlos Osorio more than a month ago, that search began with Denis Hamlett. After interviewing countless candidates and taking longer than any MLS coaching search in recent memory, the Fire’s search brought them right back to the same man who has been with the organization since it was founded, Denis Hamlett.

The Fire has chosen Hamlett as Osorio’s successor. Hamlett becomes the fourth head coach in team history, having served as an assistant for the three head coaches who came before him.

Hamlett beat out a long list of candidates that included Houston Dynamo head coach John Spencer and former Dallas Burn head coach Mike Jeffries. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, Spencer states he was offered the position but turned it down because of a low contract offer.

Hamlett joined the Fire in 1998 as part of Bob Bradley’s coaching staff during the club’s inaugural season. During the next 10 years, Hamlett sat on the bench for the club’s MLS Cup title in 1998 and four U.S. Open titles (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006).

A former standout defender for the Colorado Rapids, Hamlett retired before the 1997 season and joined the Fire soon after as an assistant coach.

Hamlett takes over a Chicago Fire team that reached the Eastern Conference final under Osorio. The Fire upset regular season Eastern Conference champions D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the New England Revolution in the East final.

Bradley was the club’s first coach and guided the Fire to an MLS Cup title in the club’s first season (1998) and MLS Cup final appearance in 2000, along with two U.S. Open Cup titles (1998 and 2000). Dave Sarachan replaced Bradley after the 2002 season and spent four seasons in charge. Sarachan led Chicago to an MLS Cup final in his first season and guided the Fire to a pair of U.S. Open Cup titles in 2003 and 2006.

Osorio replaced Sarachan mid-way through the 2007 season and helped the Fire go from last place in the Eastern Conference to the Eastern Conference final. Osorio left the Fire to become the Red Bulls’ head coach.

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34 Responses to Chicago Fire hires Hamlett

  1. papa bear says:

    He and the entire Fire organization are in for a TOUGH season if he doesn’t come out of the gates STRONG. Like 10-0-0 strong.

    as a Fire fan the JCO fiasco through the coaching search has been an absolute blight on the organization.

    Guppy continues to show why he has no business in professional sports and Hauptman has fumbled the ball, er I guess I should say handled the ball to keep is soccer specific :p, right out of the gates.

    Not good…not…not good.

  2. Paul Lorinczi says:

    I am not sure about this.

    So, he has been an assistant all these years. Is he going to deliver the results on the field? That is the question..I don’t believe he did in his interim role.

    I give him one year.

    BTW…big news today…Klinsmann is actually going to coach a team. That kind of sucks because I was enjoying hearing his name for every opening around the globe. I even laughed when Bayern were said to be considering. I guess this time, they actually were.

  3. DJC says:

    I’m always a big fan of clubs promoting from within. It worked with DC United and Tommy Soehn, and it’s what the Fire should have done right off the bat here. Give the man a chance. He’s clearly dedicated to the franchise and I would imagine knows what they need right now. Hiring a head coach with 10 years of experience with a club is NOT a bad thing. Give him two years. If it doesn’t work out, then go out and hire someone from the outside.

  4. JeffM says:

    Does this make Hamlet the first African-American head coach in MLS? Nobody else is springing immediately to mind.

  5. kpugs says:

    I can stop worrying! The future RBNY manager has finally been hired. Phew!

  6. Dave M says:

    So . . . we get Osorio and a free draft pick from LA, and we had to give up what now? A first rounder? Allocation? Who cares. We are in better hands now.

    Did suck to see Harksey go though. Big fan here.

  7. kpugs says:

    Paul…Hamlett was interim coach for a MONTH. Cut him some slack. What could anyone do in a month with the interim stag slapped on him. It’s a title with no power other than submitting a lineup basically. Cut him some slack and see what he can do before judging his coaching mertis on a couple of matches.

  8. inkedAG says:

    Am I the only one who looks at the picture of Denis Hamlett and has the Shaft theme song running through his head?? :)

  9. EDB says:


    Have you heard that the Fire might be lowballing Pickens? It seems that Rolfe thinks so according to his blog

    “Thirdly, apparently we made an offer to Houston Dynamo Assistant Coach John Spencer who turned it down and had this to say. Sounds like the same problem that could send Matt Pickens on his way”

  10. Squard says:

    While Hamlett is the first African-American coach, he’s not the first Black MLS coach. That would be Ruud Gullit in LA who’s not American.

  11. EDB says:

    Well Hamlett I believe is Costa Rican not African American

  12. Pablo Chicago says:

    Ok Ives. What happened to the “pretty premature” rumors emanating from Chicago?

    You’re such a tease. Didn’t you pulled the same “It’s not a done deal yet!” stunt with Osorio?

  13. Joamiq says:

    I initially read the headline as “Chicago fires Hamlett”. I was thinking wow, that was fast…

  14. Hincha Tim says:


  15. Hincha Tim says:

    EDB- Last time I checked Costa Rica was part of America.

  16. EDB says:

    Really.. last time i checked.. people from costa rica are reffered to as Costa Rican…

  17. Ives says:

    Pablo (and anyone else wondering), it is very simple. The reports that came out on Thursday afternoon and early evening stating that Hamlett had already been named the head coach were false. He hadn’t been named head coach, hadn’t reached an agreement and it wasn’t a case of the formality of signing the contract.

    I’ll get into more detail later on today after I land in Florida, but what I can tell you now is that Hamlett and the Fire have reached an agreement.

  18. Ives says:

    And yes, Hamlett was born in Costa Rica and lived there for 10 years, but he’s lived the rest of his life here in the US and is a citizen, so by that standard, he is American and thus African-American.

  19. Joamiq says:

    If we’re going to be pedantic, Costa Rica is part of the Americas, but not part of “America” which refers to the United States of America. Regardless, when it comes to discrimination, skin color seems to be all that matters, so it’s nice to see that MLS teams are not afraid to hire black coaches.

  20. Hincha Tim says:

    Ask any Latin AMERICAN person if he/she is AMERICAN and almost %100 will say they are, just as much as a person from the U.S.A. is American. Its kind of parochial and offensive, isn’t it, to consider the only Americans people from the United States of America. Last time I checked Canada, Mexico, and all the countries of Central and South AMERICA and the Caribbean made up AMERICA.

  21. Chris says:

    “And yes, Hamlett was born in Costa Rica and lived there for 10 years, but he’s lived the rest of his life here in the US and is a citizen, so by that standard, he is American and thus African-American.”

    If he’s lived here 10 years, I’m happy to call him American. But I don’t see how you can call him African if he’s from Costa Rica.

    Technically, he’d be Costa Rican – American.

    He is black though and, as Joamiq mentioned, that’s all that matters as far as discrimination unfortunately.

  22. The Truth says:

    Hamlett will do fine at the Fire. I know that the coming of Blanco and Osorio to save the Fire’s season was a compelling story line. Once the story started reverberating between yakkers at ESPN and the press these two became gods.

    The real story is that the Fire had ton of injuries to key players in the early part of the season. Enough so that Sarachan got sacked. The squad came back to health about the time Blanco and Osorio arrived and they ended the season about where they were in the previous season. No magic there.

    If I were Hammlet I would be afraid of the unrealistic expectations set by the miracle workers at the end of last season. Because, if they regress to the mean, which is a likely scenario, it will be blamed on Hammlet.

  23. Matt says:

    I gotta admit, he looks pretty badass in that picture.

  24. EDB says:

    i didn’t mean to start a whole fracus, i just meant to suggest that Costa Ricans are usually considered part of the hispanic group. Much like Alphonso Ribero or Sammy Sosa..

  25. d_vegas says:

    You gotta wonder how happy hamlett is with the joining, knowing he was SECOND CHOICE to Jon Spencer. I would have been pissed.. Considering how long they took to pick a coach, only to get denied and then **POOF** out comes Hamlett.. They basically passed over him a second time when ofer made to Spencer, he was not what they were looking for. They settled..and maybe Hamlett did too.

  26. ChicagoSoccerGuy says:

    Why assume he settled- at that point Hamlett had the upper hand with the draft starting less than 24 hours. Seems to me- they put themselves in a very bad negotiating situation. As a boss, I would not want to be in Adnell’s nor Guppy’s situation as they must have known sending the goal keeping coach down alone was not a viable option.
    I am certain Denis isn’t thrilled with the way he got the job- but some things in life aren’t pretty- but maybe he will be able to make lemonade out of the basket of sour lemons he got.

  27. EDB says:

    I just wonder how this prolonged search and the way the it broke down will affect the players. Will they play harder because they like him and want him to do well or will they seem less commited knowing that the front office didn’t shell out the money for their first choice

  28. Drew says:

    Go get ’em Denis! Doesn’t matter how you got the job, you are now a head coach in the MLS…congrats!!! Now take this team to the Promised Land!!!

  29. d_vegas says:

    Hamlett definately had the upper hand in negotiating…but 10 Fcukin years with chicago and he was never the number one choice…i dunno, id be bitter, but maybe he wanted to coach badly… deffinately a had hit to ego though… i really hope it works out.

  30. Fire_Juve10 says:

    Thank goodness it’s over. I’m glad to see Hamlett got the job.

  31. kaijitang says:

    Not to focus on this issue, but costa rica is not in anyway part of africa, nor is jamaica, trinidad, etc.

  32. Hincha Tim says:

    From what I understand, most of the Fire players were in favor for Hamlett as the choice for head coach, so I don’t think all the machinations leading up to his selection are going to effect him to much on the field. I think he will be successful and all will be forgotten before long.

    “Doubt thou the stars are fire;”
    Doubt that the sun doth move;
    Doubt truth to be a liar;
    But never doubt I love.”

    Hamlet(t), Act II, scene i

  33. Paul Lorinczi says:

    So all the players wanted him…do they want him because they are comfortable, or because he brings out the best in them?

    Can he manage a game tactically by understanding his opponents?

    He has been in Chicago for 10 years…who on this board has worked at one place for 10 years? He only has one frame of reference.

    But hear you loud and clear….let’s give him a chance. I will give him a chance and see what he does. I officially declare myself a skeptic. :)

    (I was when Bradley was appointed too and he has proven me wrong).

  34. steve-o says:

    Beat out? I thought Spencer turned that job down. If I were Hamlett, I would be a little irked. It’s too bad he can’t tell them to get in the wind as well.