Since taking over the Chicago Fire late in the 2008 season, owner Andrew Hauptman has made his share of mistakes. But in making Frank Klopas the Fire's sixth head coach, Hauptman made both the obvious choice and the best choice.
It might have been the most important choice of Hauptman's tenure.
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After firing Carlos de los Cobos on Memorial Day, Klopas went 8-5-10 as interim coach, including 7-2-3 the season's final stretch to lead the Fire back into the MLS playoff race, just missing out. He also led the Fire to the U.S. Open Cup final, which the club lost to the Seattle Sounders at Seattle.
Klopas knows and understands the arcane rules of MLS as well as anyone can, certainly better than a big-name international coach could.
He knows what it takes to win in MLS, he knows MLS players, he knows the college ranks, and he has good connections with agents overseas.
Best of all, he knows the current Fire players, their strengths and weaknesses and personalities. There will be no transition period.
Klopas already has hit the ground running, not learning, and unlike immediate predecessors Denis Hamlett and de los Cobos, he gets the job with plenty of time to prepare for January's college SuperDraft.
Time and again this fall, his players gave him wholehearted endorsements.
"Everyone is excited, happy for Frank," defender Dan Gargan said Thursday afternoon. "One of Frank's best qualities that I've seen is that true and honest passion for this club.
"He certainly instilled that in his players, and you could feel how much he cared about results and about putting a good effort out on the field every time we stepped on it."
He's also a fan favorite who "bleeds for the organization," Hauptman added at Thursday's news conference at Toyota Park.
Hauptman promised to let Klopas pick his own assistant coaches -- "100 percent, yes," the owner said -- which means first assistant Leo Percovich, who arrived with de los Cobos and didn't attend Thursday's news conference, probably will not return.
It opens the door for someone such as former Fire players C.J. Brown or Chris Armas or former Fire assistant Mike Matkovich, a Naperville native, to return.
Klopas also brings a measure of consistency. He becomes the team's fourth coach to work for Hauptman, who also has had three team presidents.
While the jury still is out on current team president Julian Posada -- Posada has spent his first year on the job trying to replace Best Buy as jersey sponsor, though Hauptman said there has been "meaningful progress" lately, and fighting declining attendance -- Klopas has the look of someone who will remain at Toyota Park for the long haul.
Klopas will not retain his technical director title, Hauptman said, but he will retain many of those duties, sharing them with Andell Holdings' Javier Leon.
They will be joined by an addition to the front office whom Hauptman declined to name. Speculation centers on former Fire player Eric Wynalda, though Wilmer Cabrera's name has surfaced in connection with the Fire recently.
What also isn't clear yet is how player personnel director Mike Jeffries' role will change. Hauptman indicated Klopas might have less to do with the Fire's youth teams, handing those duties to Jeffries.
Leon, Klopas and Co. will need to decide which players to protect from the Montreal Impact in the Nov. 23 expansion draft, which club options on players to pick up (like Gargan's), which out-of-contract players to re-sign (such as Pavel Pardo: "He wants to stay, and we want him here, so that's a good start," Hauptman said), and if they want to select anyone in the Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 re-entry drafts.
They are likely to spend more time overseas this off-season, and don't be surprised if they return with a high-priced Designated Player.
Stories have followed Hauptman the past four years that he is involved in many Fire decisions. Hauptman always has denied those stories. For Klopas' sake and the Fire's sake, the hope is that those stories are wrong and Hauptman is right.
As Theodore Roosevelt once wrote, "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."
•Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrinsoccer.