After two seasons at the helm, Denis Hamlett is out as Fire Head Coach. Hamlett, who took the Fire to two conference finals in his two year run as head coach, was told by Fire staff this afternoon that his expired contract would not be renewed this offseason. He will leave the club, effective immediately.
Hamlett joined the Fire for its inaugural season in 1998 and spent the last 11 years with the club, slowly working his way up the ladder from assistant to Head Coach.
Hamlett's tenure as head coach was characterized by many fans as a period of underachievement for the Fire which -- despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in MLS -- failed to bring home any trophies during Hamlett's run. Another factor that could have contributed to the non-renewal of Hamlett's contract is the controversy that has -- at times -- wrapped itself around Hamlett (and the club) in the last two years. The most notable instance took place on August 9th of this year, when Hamlett and former defender Bakary Soumare got into a highly publicized locker room spat at halftime of the Fire's regular season match at Houston.
"Denis has a long history with the club and has been a part its success since our inaugural year in 1998," said Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas. "We are grateful for his commitment to the Fire and his leadership throughout his career with the club. We wish him the very best and he will always be considered a part of the Fire family. Right now, the Fire has decided to take the team in a new direction in 2010."
The Fire will immediately begin the search for a new head coach. For the time being, Technical Director Frank Klopas will handle all team decisions.
While, I'm honestly on the fence regarding the parting of ways with Hamlett, I will say that it was a good move that the Fire did this early in the offseason. I would like to see them hire a new head coach (likely candidates include former D.C. coach Tom Soehn and current NYRB Interim Manager Richie Williams to name a couple) very quickly so the team can get off on the right foot in 2010.
Obviously I'll have much, much more on this story as we move along, but for now I'll let you all take it away.