The last half of 1985 produced a few sudden surprises in the life of Paul DeStefano. The start of 1986 may produce a jolt.

After 10 years of coaching basketball at Pallotti and Mackin, DeStefano did not coach at all last season. Then he applied for a coaching position at Ireton when general unhappiness among the athletic staff led to two-thirds of the school's coaches leaving.

"I applied for the coach's job, and I ended up as athletic director, basketball coach and as a teacher," said DeStefano, a 1974 Catholic University graduate who played three seasons of collegiate baseball.

Just as shocking may have been the Cardinals' 9-1 start . Senior 6-foot-8 center Robert Pollard is producing as expected, with 17 points and nine rebounds per game, but support has been exceptional from 6-2 Sean Smith (13 points per game) and point guard Kasey Carver (9.0 points, seven assists per game).

The real test for Ireton, however, started Friday as it defeated visiting Good Counsel, 68-60, in its first Metro Conference game ever. Ireton played at Gonzaga Tuesday, and tomorrow it will play host to DeMatha at 7:30. Not only are the latter two tops in the Metro Conference, they are both considered to be among the nation's best prep teams.

"We will get our initiation pretty quickly," said DeStefano. "We played downtown in the Sidwell Summer League and kept our heads above water. I think we can at least be competitive this year."

One addition that will help is 5-11 guard Jerry McFarland. A shoulder separation suffered with two games left in the football season kept him out until last week.

Lake Braddock's girls are another basketball team that jumped out of the blocks quickly under a new coach.

The Bruins, who were 8-14 last season, won seven of their first eight and the West Potomac holiday tournament. Although Coach Melissa Trowbridge does not have any seniors and three of her players missed several games after being injured in an auto accident, she said her task may not have been as difficult as some may perceive.

Junior Kathi Nidiffer and sophomore Tara Mogan, both starters, and reserve junior Terry O'Shea were all passengers in a car that skidded on ice and hit a telephone pole on Dec. 20. Nidiffer, who suffered a bruised knee, and Mogan, who had facial cuts and bruised nose from hitting the windshield, returned Friday to score six and five points, respectively, in a 63-41 victory at Oakton.

O'Shea broke the wrist of her right (shooting) hand and will be out for an indefinite period.

In their absence, freshman forward Laura Teter and junior Liz Wheeler exceled in the West Potomac tournament. Teter averaged 19 points in the three games, and had 21 against Oakton.

Bobby Chuey Jr., who finished as the second-leading career scorer in Hayfield history, wasted little time establishing himself at the collegiate level.

Chuey, a 6-3 freshman wing guard, is averaging 18.3 points as a starter for Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W. Va.

Last week, he was back at Hayfield to accept a plaque and induction into the school's hall of fame.

Chuey's father, Hayfield Coach Bob Chuey Sr., has been busy keeping up with his son. The elder Chuey attended five of the 6-5 Rams' 10 games.

"We end practice about 5 o'clock and it is about a two-hour drive to the school," he said. "Some days it can get tiring, but I've always wanted to watch Bobby play, so I don't mind."