The Fire headed into this question with a few big questions on their plate. One of those questions was whether or not the club would renew Head Coach Denis Hamlett's contract.
That question was answered Tuesday afternoon, with the team electing to not bring the longtime member of the Fire organization back to Toyota Park.
But why is Hamlett now looking for work? After all, he did lead the team to the conference final in both of his seasons in charge.
"If you look at it you can say, 'look the team [made] the conference final two years in a row,' but I think that there are a lot of things that go into this whole process," said a source close to the team. "Managing the group, almost treating them like a psychologist [would], getting the best out of players, game management; those are all things that you can put into it."
That those "things" weren't being accomplished was perhaps most evident on August 9th, when Hamlett and former defender Bakary Soumare were involved in a highly publicized locker-room showdown at halftime of the team's 3-2 loss to Houston.
The incident, which served as a major distraction for the team throughout the saga and quickened Soumare's departure to France, was kind of a microcosm of what went wrong in Hamlett's tenure. He never quite seemed to get the players to be able to give that maximum effort or concentration on a consistent basis -- something that was undoubtedly a factor in the numerous late goals the Fire gave up this year.
In the end, I'm not too surprised that the off-the-field factors played a role in Hamlett's dismissal. None of the issues -- whether they were in the locker room or anywhere else -- did him any favors today, when the Fire decided not to bring him back.
On a personal note, I'm saddened to see Denis go. He was always a good guy to me -- even in the rougher times -- and he certainly does a good job of keeping reporters on their toes. I sincerely wish him the best of luck in the future and it's a bummer his long tenure with the Fire had to end on a sour note.
On a professional note, I think getting rid of Denis is the right move -- provided the Fire finds a clear improvement to replace him. I think getting rid of Denis to hire former D.C. coach (and Fire player) Tom Soehn or former Kansas City head man Curt Onalfo would be a mistake.
The jury's still out on current guys like Interim Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls Richie Williams or former Fire player/assistant Chris Armas, both of whom lack significant head coaching experience.
No matter which direction the Fire goes though, I would like to see them pick a new head man soon. It would be nice to have him in place before the draft.