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Marlins fire Dan Jennings; Mattingly joins Marlins; Postscripts, reaction from Heat's opening night win; Phil Simms opines on Dolphins before working Miami's nationally-televised Thursday game

Thursday 6 p.m. update: The Marlins have dismissed general manager Dan Jennings, according to sources, and are not naming a replacement. Michael Hill, the team's president/baseball operations, will assume those duties.

[UPDATE: The Marlins have announced the move, which we first reported. The team Jennings was "relieved of his duties." President David Samson said tonight it was his decision to sever ties with Jennings, and Loria allowed it. The Marlins must still pay Jennings $5.6 million over the next three seasons.

 “The conversations Michael and I had with Dan, both of us would probably agree this is the best decision to make,” Samson said.

“As I was watching everything develop during October, I felt the way it was running since the middle of May was probably the way it should continue to run. The way Mike operates the baseball department and the people he has in place put us in better positions to win games. The ideas Michael has of how to turn this around I think are ideas that are right.”

Samson said Jennings, who did not return a phone call from The Miami Herald, “did not seem surprised” by his dismissal. “He understood. It was sad for me and Michael because when you've been working for people for a long time, it’s tough.”]

Jennings, who left his front office position to replace Mike Redmond in May and guided the team to a 55-69 record, was told in September that he would not return as manager, even though he wanted to.

Jennings, 55, was offered a job to return to his previous role as the team's general manager and accepted. But as I reported last Saturday, days before he was set to return to work on Oct. 19, Jennings was told to remain in Alabama and not to return to the Marlins offices.

Jennings had questions about his level of authority and responsibilities and president David Samson told Jennings that he needed to speak to owner Jeffrey Loria to answer those questions, before returning to work.

But that conversation with Loria apparently never happened, and the Marlins decided to part ways with him Thursday.

It's believed the Marlins thought the dynamics of the front office would be better without Jennings, whose once strong relationship with Loria soured during his time as manager.

Loria and Jennings squabbled over lineup decisions, including whether to play Marcell Ozuna, according to a source aligned with Jennings.

Jennings wanted to play him most every day after he returned from the minors; Loria was down on Ozuna and wanted him on the bench some days or moved from center field to right field during Giancarlo Stanton's absence.

The Marlins must pay Jennings through the end of the 2018 season. He's reportedly due $5.6 million.

It's a surprising conclusion to Jennings' 13-year tenure with the organization. After serving as assistant GM, Jenning was promoted to GM in September 2013 and was second in command in the baseball front office hierarchy, behind Hill. He gave up GM duties to become manager in May.

Michael Hill will remain the team's president/baseball operations. Besides Hill, Loria also is listening to several others in his front office, including assistant general manager Mike Berger, vice president/player personnel Jeff McAvoy and Marc Delpiano, who was hired away from the Pittsburgh Pirates in August for a job essentially running the team's farm system.

Jennings did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

 

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The Marlins' courtship of Don Mattingly, as reported here in the past week, ended successfully today with Mattingly agreeing to manage the Marlins, according to sources.

It's a four-year deal, as first reported by Molly Knight, who spent a year chronicling the Dodgers under Mattingly.

A Mattingly associate, who asked he not be identified because the deal has not been announced, said  Mattingly is "excited" about the opportunity and likes the "mixture of kids" and veterans on the Marlins' roster. He said he was impressed by Marlins management during Monday's interview.

"The key thing is these guys want him," the associate said. "He was someone else's guy in Los Angeles [because the current Dodgers administration didn't hire him]. The expectations there were that if he didn't win the World Series, he would be out. How many people have that pressure?"

The associate said Mattingly comes across as a "quiet guy" but he's "fierce and intense."

Mattingly returned to his hometown of Evansville, Ind., this week after meeting with Marlins officials on Monday. A formal announcement is expected after the World Series.

Mattingly replaces Dan Jennings, who replaced Mike Redmond after the team started 16-22. The Marlins finished 71-91.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who lives in New York, has always been fond of Mattingly, a former Yankee star who made All-Star team six times in 14 seasons. Loria helped arrange an event in which Mattingly was honored several years ago.

Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways recently after he led the team to three consecutive National League West titles but no World Series appearances. 

He won 55.1 percent of his regular season games in five years in Los Angeles (446-363) but was 8-11 in postseason.

"I think he had a good sense of when to approach players, not just when to do it, if to do it at all," Dodgers general manager Farhad Zaidi told The Los Angeles Times.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis praised Mattingly for speaking to players privately instead of calling them out in front of teammates.

But Dodgers management apparently wanted a new voice after again failing to make the World Series with baseball's largest payroll last season ($272 million). In Miami, Mattingly will have a payroll closer to $80 million.

The Marlins' managerial job has been a revolving door since Loria bought the team in 2002, and Mattingly will be the team's 10th during his ownership. One manager, Joe Girardi, was fired being winning National League Manager of the Year because Loria didn't like how he interacted with management. Another ballyhooed hire, Ozzie Guillen, was fired after one season in which the team vastly underachieved and Guillen made controversial comments about Fidel Castro.

The managers that Loria has employed during his ownership:

### Jeff Torborg: 2002-03; 95-105/.475 winning percentage; fired

### Jack McKeon: 2003-05; 286-257/ .538; won World Series in 2003; resigned

### Joe Girardi: 2006 78-84/48.1; fired 

### Fredi Gonzalez: 2007-midway through 2010; 276-279/49.7; fired

### Edwin Rodriguez: 2010-11; 78-85/47.9; resigned

### Brandon Hyde: 2011; 0-1; interim manager

### McKeon again: 2011; 40-50/.444; interim manager

### Ozzie Guillen: 2012; 69-93/ 42.6; fired

### Mike Redmond: 2013-May of 2015; 155-207, 42.8; fired

### Dan Jennings; 2015; 55-69; .443; Moved back to general manager's job, though he has been told not to report to work until he has more conversations with Loria

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HEAT POSTSCRIPTS

Postscripts and reaction from the Heat’s 104-94 season-opening win against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena:

### So much encouraging in this one, from Chris Bosh looking like the pre-blood clot Bosh; to a spry Dwyane Wade; to an active, versatile Justise Winslow making an imprint in his first game; to Gerald Green doing Gerald Green things.

Miami, at least for a night, did good work in two areas where the Heat had to improve --- three-point shooting and field-goal percentage against.

The Heat, which ranked 24th in three-point shooting percentage last season, shot 12 for 20 from the beyond the arc, including 5 for 8 from Green.

And the Heat, an uncharacteristic 19th in field-goal percentage against last season (45.4), held the Hornets to 39.3 percent shooting, including 34.4 over the last three quarters.

This helped, too: Miami shot 20 for 21 on free throws, best ever for a Heat opener.

### The Heat opened and closed with slightly different lineups. Hassan Whiteside started, naturally, but it was Green alongside the other Heat starters late.

And Green deserves to play in crunch time: He scored 19 points in 30 minutes, hit five threes (most ever for a Heat opener) and made a defensive stop late. The Heat’s bench has gone from weakness to strength, thanks in large part to Green.

“On some nights, I might start off a little slow, but as long as I can put a lot of energy on the defensive end, we’re OK,” Green told Sun Sports’ Jason Jackson afterward.

“We want him to play with the utmost confidence,” Erik Spoelstra said. "We know he’s ignitable. We know he took one Heat-check shot, but sometimes when you get on a roll, that happens. We need that scoring punch. He’s not just a scorer now. He’s developing other parts of his game.”

The Heat played small late, with Chris Bosh at center, Luol Deng at power forward, and Green, Wade and Goran Dragic.

### Wade drove to the basket with verve, hit his mid-range jumper and scored 20 points (7 for 16 shooting) with five assists.

"I enjoy having Gerald to come in for me; I haven't had a guy with that firepower to come in for me in a long time," Wade said.

### Bosh? He gave Miami exactly what it needs (21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 of 10 from the line) in his first regular season game since mid-February.

"Bosh was the X factor," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

### Deng (13 points) had two big fourth-quarter baskets, a corner three and a top-of-the-key three after Charlotte cut Miami’s 20-point lead to five with under a minute left. The Heat did a splendid job passing the ball to set up that late Deng three.

“That’s the toughest time to do it,” Spoelstra said. “Dwyane moved it, got the ball to Goran, looked like he was open for a second for a three and moved it for a better one. Those are habits you build of trusting your teammates.”

### Because of the improved depth (especially Green), the Heat could afford quiet nights from Whiteside (four points, six rebounds, two blocks in 20 minutes) and Dragic (8 points, six assists).

Whiteside was lifted four minutes into the game because of the “flow of the game,” Spoelstra said.

In Whiteside’s defense, he played better defense against Al Jefferson in the third quarter after struggling against him early.

“They had some stretch fours and fives out there that get your bigs running around,” Spoelstra said of Whiteside's limited minutes. “There will be times he’s playing 36 minutes.”

### Nobody saw this coming: Udonis Haslem was the first player summoned off the Heat’s bench, largely because he has had some success defending Jefferson in the past.

Jefferson scored 13 of Charlotte’s first 17 points but just four points the rest of the game. Curiously, he played just 22 minutes.

With Amar’e Stoudemire held out as part of the Heat’s maintenance program, Spoelstra opted for Haslem over Chris Andersen, who didn’t play. Josh Richardson joined Stoudemire on the inactive list. Tyler Johnson and James Ennis didn't play.

### Winslow, at 19, already has the qualities an above-average NBA defender. "He has a very mature defensive game, a thick man's body," Ron Rothstein said on the Fox Sports Sun postgame.

Winslow had five points (making both his shots from the field, including a three), seven rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes. The Heat outscored the Hornets by 26 in his 26 minutes, giving him by far the game’s best plus/minus. Nobody else was better than plus 10.

“I love seeing the box score," Spoelstra said of Winslow. "I love that stat line, where nothing jumps out at you except the scoreboard. You can’t evaluate Justise’s game by analytics. Sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story. He just makes winning plays, both sides of the court.”

### Charlotte part-owner Michael Jordan had the chance to draft Winslow ninth or trade the pick to Boston for six draft picks. Naturally, he instead took Frank Kaminsky, who was scoreless in six minutes. (No disrespect to Kaminsky. We know it's only one game. But two GMs told us this summer that Jordan made a mistake.)

### Spoelstra played a number of small lineups with uneven results at times, but more positive than negative, with the Heat able to exploit several favorable matchups. Several times, Bosh took advantage of the slow-footed Spencer Hawes.

### Spoelstra also smartly had Dragic play considerable minutes with Green; those two played very well together in Phoenix.

### Spoelstra, afterward: “It was a good start. Really liked the energy the guys brought. Guys were playing to the point of fatigue. Defensively, until that fourth quarter when we started to foul, the commitment to keep them out of the paint, which was easier said that done. We’re taking some steps forward with our defense.”

### Josh McRoberts played 13 scoreless minutes, but his passing (two assists) and creativity are a huge asset on the second unit.

SIMMS ON FINS

Chatted last night with Phil Simms, who calls Dolphins-Patriots with Jim Nantz on CBS and NFL Network on Thursday, and he had several thoughts on the Dolphins. Among them:

He said he needs to see more to judge how good the Dolphins are under Dan Campbell because the Titans aren’t very good. But what “they did to Houston was impressive. I have watched every Dolphins game.

"I will never say anything negative about Joe Philbin on the air. [But] it’s very noticeable the energy they’re playing with. Sometimes, the same message, different guy. It’s amazing how it’s received differently.

“I would listen to Dan Campbell because I’m afraid he would knock me on my butt if I didn’t.”

Simms said Jarvis Landry is “a really good modern day player. He’s faking reverses, running reverses. He looks quicker to me. He made some cuts, I went, ‘Oh my gosh.'

“Cameron Wake looks as fast as I’ve ever seen him… Ryan Tannehill hasn’t disappointed me. He’s a really solid NFL quarterback. [Longterm], we’ll judge him on the won/loss record.

"Lamar Miller’s speed is evident, but the offensive line has been more aggressive the last two weeks. Mike Pouncey is unbelievable. Pouncey and Branden Albert are special. You need two studs on an offensive line to win and they [have that].

"Miami getting a wild card wouldn’t shock me. The AFC is so much better than the NFC.”

This is CBS' last Thursday game for a while and next to last of the season, with the package moving exclusively to NFL Network next week. (CBS also airs a Packers-Lions game in early December, with an NFL Net simulcast). 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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