Atlanta importer William Counry was a failure at money-making schemes who admired those he thought had money and influence and who willingly helped smuggle drugs, defense lawyers in an Alexandria drug trail contended yesterday.

Coury, 34, a key prosecution witness in the trail of five men accused of running a highly lucrative drug ring, became the "hash man" for the alleged ring, which had previously dealt only in marijuana, in order to become wealthy himself, according to the defense.

That picture contrasted sharply with Coury's testimony on Monday in U.S. District Court, in which he said he became enmeshed in the ring while trying to pay off a $50,000 business loan from Donald Haynie, one of the defendants.

Coury, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a felony drug charge in connection with the defendant's alleged activities, said yesterday that he hoped influential Atlantas, including Mayor Maynard Jackson, would testify in his behalf at his sentencing Dec. 13 in Atlanta.

Jackson, through a spokesman, yesterday acknowledged then later denied any official connection with Coury. "I know nothing about this matter and I don't plan to be at any trial on the 15th of December," Jackson said.

Sources in Atlanta said, however, that Coury in past months has acted as a representative of a magazine, Middle East Business, that planned a special issue featuring Atlanta businesses.

These sources said that Jackson mailed letters dated Nov. 14 to several hundred Atlanta businessmen urging them go grant interviews to the magazine, which is said to reach 150,000 people in 21 countries, and ordered the city's Office of Economic Development to provide staff support to the project.

But an aide to the mayor said Jackson later was displeased to learn that Coury was using the opportunity to sell advertisements for the issue and yesterday cut off city support of the effort.

Defense attorney Larry Turner, of Gainesville, Fla., who asked Coury about his relationship to Jackson, also asked repeatedly whether Coury knew Bert Lance of Atlanta, former director of the Office of Management and Budget. Coury denied knowing Lance personally.

Robert Scott Matchan, controller of Coury's import-export business, Coury International, located in the luxurious Omni Hotel complex in Atlanta, testified that Coury often traveled to the Middle East to round up business.

Matchan said Coury once tried but failed to sell an x-ray machine to the Egyptian government, and had also discussed trying to open a gambling casino in Egypt.

Coury also said in his testimony that he had thought of lining up Middle East backers to invests in projects to build a casino in Las Vegas and a pyramid-shaped hotel in the Bahamas.

Another Atlanta man, John O. Cote, testified yesterday that Haynie invested in a new Atlanta public relations firm that he hoped would have national politicians as clients, but which now deals only with local Atlanta figures.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said in an opening statement on Monday that Coury made several trips to India and Nepal between January 1977 and last September to arrange for massive drug shipments for the alleged ring of smugglers.

The group's alleged activities ended last Dec. 5 in a raid by federal agents at Dulles International Airport that led to the arrest and later indictment of 12 men.