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White Sox’ Don Cooper a big Terry Francona fan

Sox pitching coach DCooper hugging Mark Buehrle says Terry Francona’s track record is awesome. | Getty Images

Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, hugging Mark Buehrle, says Terry Francona’s track record is awesome. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 9:04AM

The smart money wagered on who the White Sox’ new manager will be is on a first-time field boss. Why? Because that’s the way general manager Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf always have done it.

Jerry Manuel was the bench coach for the 1997 champion Florida Marlins and Ozzie Guillen was a third-base coach with the 2003 champion Marlins right before the Sox (Ron Schueler was GM in 1998) put them in the manager’s chair. Following suit, Cleveland Indians bench coach-to-be Sandy Alomar Jr. and Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez look like logical candidates.

But Williams wanted to hire Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston when Guillen got the job in 2003, so it’s not like he holds a grudge against experience. So former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona hasn’t been ruled out, even though he likely would cost twice as much in salary.

Count Sox pitching coach Don Cooper — while taking nothing away from Martinez and Alomar — among those who believe Francona, a former manager in the Sox’ system who worked with Cooper in the minors, would be a great choice.

“No question,’’ Cooper said Tuesday. “Come on. He’s the best Red Sox manager ever as far as I’m concerned. And I would think Red Sox Nation would have to echo that. His track record is awesome. He’s a two-time world champion.’’

Cooper received a four-year extension from Williams and managed the Sox’ last two games after Guillen high-tailed it for Miami last week.

“It’s going to be interesting who they choose and what personality is now going to be heading our ship,’’ he said. “Hey, the title of manager is a very important one. No question about it. It’s a hefty responsibility.’’

Cooper doesn’t believe a certain personality type exists that best suits a Sox team that disappointed with a 79-83 record.

“It has more to do with leadership, direction, style of play,’’ he said. “Something new is starting. Ozzie is gone; he’s no longer here. He’s directing the ship in Miami. Somebody’s going to take over here, and I think it’s [about] leadership. And communication. Style of play. What’s the new direction going to be?

“Any one of those guys are fine candidates. Now Tito [Francona], he ran the show. He was the manager. None of the other guys have experience at the major-league level. And not only does he have experience, he has — heck — a noted track record. I know him. We kind of grew up together here. He has a great personality and a great sense of humor. And obviously the way his teams have played, they’ve represented.’’

Cooper also knows Martinez, a former Sox outfielder, and Alomar Jr., a former Sox catcher who has a home in Chicago.

“Sandy and his family have been around the game forever,’’ Cooper said. “Sandy knows the game inside out. And Martinez is the right-hand guy for somebody I consider one of the top managers in the game — Joe Maddon. What I know about Maddon’s style, I love that style.’’

Cooper made a point of stressing that his respect for Guillen, with whom he worked eight years, including the 2005 World Series title season, remains high.

“The reality is that he chose Miami, to direct that ship’’ and a change of scenery might be the best thing for Guillen and the Sox.

“What we did, what we had going, simply ran its course for a lot of different reasons that people can interpret any way they want,’’ Cooper said. “But the reality is that regime is over now. It’s done, and we’re going somewhere else. And we’re doing that under someone else’s leadership. Who that is, we’ll find out.’’

NOTE: Ken Williams said this week that left-hander Chris Sale would be given every opportunity to be a starter, but Don Cooper said that hasn’t been determined yet.

“I haven’t heard that officially because we haven’t sat down as an organization, as staff, as coaches,’’ Cooper said. “We haven’t talked about the team as an organization and determined Chris Sale’s role for next year.’’

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