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Denis Hamlett ready for new challenge as Red Bulls sporting director

Photo by Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports
Photo by Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Talk about a promotion.

The New York Red Bulls appointed assistant head coach Denis Hamlett as their newest sporting director on Tuesday, filling the role that was curiously made vacant on Feb. 16 when the club parted ways with Ali Curtis for unknown reasons.

The decision to move Hamlett from the sidelines into an office is an intriguing one. Hamlett has a wealth of MLS experience after both playing and coaching in the league, but he has never held a front-office job until now. What makes things even more interesting is that Hamlett has essentially been made the boss of his boss, head coach Jesse Marsch.

“He’s going to report to me, but I think the most important thing is that it’s a partnership,” said Hamlett on a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. “We sit down, we have discussions, we put things on the table, and at the end we make the right decision for what we think is best for the club, the organization, and the team.

“I think the key thing for us is just make sure there’s always communications, with him and the support staff, because I think that’s some we did when I was the assistant coach.”

The 48-year-old Hamlett would not go into specifics on Wednesday about the timeline of when he was approached about the job, though a report in early January stated that he was set to be promoted into the front office.

Hamlett did touch on the perception that exists among some fans, observers, and media members about the Red Bulls constantly turning over their technical staffs. He was not overly concerned, however, when discussing the topic even though his predecessor was let go after two mostly successful seasons.

“We realize it’s something that’s out there,” said Hamlett. “For me, I draw on my experiences with (the Chicago Fire) in terms of why were so successful in those 10 years. It was the stability in terms of the support staff, the coaching staff, and the players in terms of the group that we had and trying to get the right balance to always bringing in younger players and bringing in the right type of players that can help the team be a good quality team from top to bottom.

“For me, it’s important in our league to have some stability because guys feel that they’re a part of something special. I think we’ve created that in the last two years, and we’ll continue to do that in the years to come.”

As for his vision for the club, Hamlett does not expect to change much. He said the Red Bulls’ “philosophy is in place” and that they will continue to field young players while bringing in the right veteran pieces that fit the uptempo, aggressive style that have made the team so successful as of late.

Hamlett also said that the Red Bulls could fill the final available Designated Player spot on their roster this year, but added that any such move would probably not come until the summer when the squad is evaluated more thoroughly.

“We have a good starting point with our group right now and so we’ll see how things play out,” said Hamlett. “But we have the assets in terms of the (General Allocation Money) and the (Targeted Allocation Money) that we can use if we want to go out and get another DP, so we’re open to that.”

With Hamlett now serving as the sporting director, the Red Bulls will have to hire another assistant coach. The club is sifting through its options both from within and outside the organization, including Red Bulls II head coach John Wolyniec, but no decision has yet been made.

Hamlett will have a say in that hire and also in a bevy of other topics that come across his desk. He has a different role now than he is accustomed to, but he feels prepared for it all the same.

“For me it’s just a matter of perfect timing, where I am in my career,” said Hamlett. “I feel confident that all my experiences that I’ve done have put me in a position now where I feel like I can help this club compete for championships and hopefully be one of the model franchises of the MLS.”


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