Two years ago, Ed Kiernan knew he was ready to become a head basketball coach in Northern Virginia, but when the job at Stuart was offered, he hesitated before taking it.

Kiernan was used to success. In his last two years playing at West Springfield under Don McCool in 1972 and 1973, the Spartans went to the state tournament. He started for four years at Hampden-Sydney, ending up as the college's ninth all-time leading scorer. He then spent five years at Lee High School as an assistant under Charlie Thompson, one of which ended with a state AAA championship (1981).

Stuart had little to cheer about on the court. From 1981 to 1983, the Raiders compiled a 5-55 record, including 0-21 in 1983.

Starting five juniors last year, Kiernan managed a 9-13 record. This season, Stuart won its first three games before losing to highly touted Hayfield, 71-69, in the final 11 seconds.

"I enjoyed being an assistant at Lee," said Kiernan, 29, a history and government teacher. "It was all of the fun of being in a top program, and as an assistant, I had none of the pressure. I had to think twice about going to Stuart. The one good side of it was that I couldn't go there and destroy a good program. I took it as a challenge."

Leading the Raiders has been hot-shooting guard Mike Avis, Jay Dennis (averaging more than 15 points per game), and two players known more for their football prowess -- Mike Smith and Bobby Christian. Stuart's problem will come against taller teams, where 6-foot-2 John Scherbenske will be left to deal with opposing centers.

Kiernan hopes to emerge from this week's Hayfield holiday tournament with a team capable of winning in the Potomac District.

"My first goal here was to establish some confidence," he said. "But I really wanted to be in the regionals within two years. I don't know if we can win our district, but I think we have a shot at it."

The Virginia High School League's Legislative Council recently voted down a proposal that would eliminate all restrictions on high school coaches working with their ballplayers when school is not in session from June 10 to mid-August.

The current rules prohibit coaches from working with players, or organizing them as an official team for summer league play, if they are acting as coaches. But the rules are blatantly circumvented by coaches, who, among other things, take summer jobs as playground directors and then have their players drop by.

VHSL Chairman Harry Blevins said when the amendment was first proposed that eliminating all restrictions was a means of putting the situation above board.

Among the other measures the Legislative Council considered at its Charlottesville meeting were changes for the annual state outdoor track meet. A 400-meter relay will be added to the boys events and the 300-meter low (30-inch) hurdles will be added to the girls races. The 800-meter relay was eliminated for both boys and girls . . . The council defeated a proposal to end all regular-season soccer games as a tie if they are deadlocked after two 10-minute overtimes. Games will continue to be decided by penalty kicks if the overtimes do not produce a winner.