Houston assistant coach John Spencer says the Fire job was offered to him and he accepted but couldn't agree on a salary with general manager John Guppy, who then turned to the man first hired by former Fire general manager Peter Wilt in 1997.
In a conference call announcing Hamlett's hiring Friday, Guppy refused to confirm he'd first offered the job to Spencer but regardless, Hamlett - who'd interviewed for several head coaching jobs in the past few years - took the opportunity.
Hamlett turned 39 just a few days ago, and last month, married Jackie Sowinski. After years of being shortlisted but never selected, he's been anointed, albeit belatedly.
Hamlett came to Chicago after playing the first 1996 MLS season for Colorado, which took him with the 12th overall pick in the league draft following several indoor seasons for Anaheim of the CISL and Harrisburg (NPSL). He retired in 1997 and began a long run of working as an assistant coach while serving as Spanish-speaking translator, stemming from his childhood in Costa Rica. He moved with his family to the United States when he was 10.
He's well-grounded in the American game, having played college soccer at George Mason (from which he graduated, by the way), playing professionally indoors and outdoors, earning his USSF 'A' coaching license in 1999, and working under three very different head coaches while waiting for his chance.
Current assistant Daryl Shore, who also interviewed for the head coaching job, is accompanying Hamlett at the MLS Combine and will be with him at the SuperDraft. During the conference call, Hamlett said the team's first priority was to power up its goalscoring and make even better use of Cuauhtemoc Blanco's attacking abilities.
Hamlett's first season as a head coach may depend on how he well he manages his team's personalities as well as his players' abilities; long service in the game, fluent Spanish, and a half-season with Blanco can only help.