"I miss Len even more now, after basketball." To Lonise Bias, late spring had been one season with her oldest son that need not be shared. Fall was filled with practice, winter with seemingly interminable games. June was for closing family ties stretched by college, and by college sport.

"You expect him to come home," she said not long ago, "but he's not gonna. You expect to see him, but he's not there. You expect to see him walk in, throw his keys down and yell: 'Hey, where's everybody?'

"But he's not there."

Len Bias was pronounced dead at 8:50 a.m. on June 19, 1986. The tragedy gripped more than his family, because Bias had been so breathtaking at basketball, an all-America at Maryland and the second player chosen in the NBA draft two days earlier. His death became something of a national obsession, because it was cocaine-induced.

That loss of one life affected the lives of many more. Directly and tangentially. Len's sister Michelle postponed college while the family gathered itself. His brother Jay helped Northwestern High School to the Maryland state Class AA title in the winter, flying to victory in sneakers the backs of which he had hand-lettered "Len" and "Bias."

The last two weeks, in Room 202 of the Prince George's County Courthouse, the suffering was replayed in sad detail. The man in the defendant's chair, Brian Lee Tribble, was judged not guilty of four drug-related charges. Testimony by former teammates and others tore into Bias' reputation, suggesting he had at least a modest appetite for cocaine.

The prosecutor called Bias a "courtesy middleman" for drugs; former teammate Terry Long said he was introduced to cocaine by Bias; another former teammate, David Gregg, said Bias provided him with cocaine four or five times.

To the Bias family, the words were painful and inconclusive. Attorney Wayne Curry hints of a possible lawsuit, but not where it might lead. To the University of Maryland, reiteration that the horrible event took place in one of its dorms, Washington Hall, and that cocaine was snorted there at least several times in the last two years, was another reminder of apparent neglect officials hope has been corrected.

Nearly a year after Len's death, a Bias remains popular and in the public eye. Lonise quit her job of 15 years and took to lecturing about drugs and teen-age responsibility, an angry, frustrated, determined mother preaching: "Because of Len's death, change will come."

She means change in the way youngsters view drugs -- and themselves. But another change, of astonishing proportion, began to take shape at Maryland not long after the memorial service for Bias last June at Cole Field House.

Investigations that included a pair of university task-force reports, in addition to the summer-long grand jury in Prince George's County, led to the resignations of Maryland's basketball coach, Lefty Driesell, and its athletic director, Dick Dull.

The chancellor, John B. Slaughter, remains involved with the aftershocks. Almost all of the many Bias-related decisions he made, policy as well as personnel, cannot honestly be evaluated for several years. Like everyone whose life was dramatically altered by it, Slaughter will never forget how he learned of Len's death.

"I had just stepped off the elevator {in a Bethesda bank} when I took the phone messages {from his wife and a university official}," Slaughter said. "I use that elevator six or seven times a year for meetings. Every time I get on, I remember what happened when I got off June 19."

As if the sorrow and turmoil were themselves not enough, they often unfolded with dozens of reporters and cameras nearby.

"I remember one instance when I left my office to go to the bathroom," Dull recalled. "I was followed down the hall on camera, against my will, and almost into the men's room. I can imagine what it must have been like for the Bias family. And for Lefty. And Dr. Slaughter."

Of himself, Driesell and Slaughter, Dull was most open about how he dealt with the ordeal.

"I would go out to jog and couldn't get my mind off it," he said. "Every day I jogged, I had 20-25 minutes where the only thing I thought about was Len Bias. I went over everything in my mind, from the day it happened to how it might have hurt my employment opportunities in the future.

"I went through three or four pretty difficult months of self-doubt. Sometime around the first of the year, I finally made up my mind that I would quit feeling sorry for myself for being at Maryland at this time and that I'd go on with my life.

"Since then, people can tell you I've had a very positive attitude, as opposed to one that was basically negative all through the winter."

Everybody most affected has now gotten on with living, although not always in a way they would prefer. Driesell is an assistant athletic director at Maryland, but hopes to return to coaching; Dull is an aide in Slaughter's office, but looking at possibilities "in the public and private sectors. I really want to live out west."

Of all the questions and doubts that remain, even after the Tribble verdict, the Bias family raises some of the most troubling.

Still hurt, still confused, James Bias at one point during an interview weeks before the trial said: "I think there's going to be some things revealed that'll be shocking to a whole bunch of people. Eventually. It's going to be revealed. It'll get out. It has to. Some of these things have to get out.

"And when they do get out, lots of eyebrows will be raised and people will say: 'Why? How did this come about?' Lot of things known by certain people {mostly, he believes, Maryland state officials}. But they're only putting out what they want."

Although he did not elaborate, he admitted in that same interview: "I don't know if the real Len Bias story will ever be revealed . . . Nobody has come forth and said: 'I've seen the drugs Len Bias used.' Cocaine or anything else. Nobody."

That was before the testimony of Long and Gregg, who were granted immunity from drug-related charges and whose testimony in the Tribble trial alleged that Bias was no stranger to cocaine. The Biases have declined to comment since the trial ended.

"It has never been proven to me that Len caused his own death," said Lonise Bias, also before the trial. "I'm hoping, at some point in time, that the process will show something that happened. Or at least tell us what happened.

"If someone can come up and give you, in front of your face, as the judge would say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, then I can accept it. None of us is perfect. I, being a parent, am going on his record. From what I knew of him, I never knew him to use drugs.

"All I'm saying is: 'Prove it to me that he did.' That's all. I'm not saying he was better than anyone else. Or that he was too good. I'm not just going to take it word of mouth and go off running with it. Prove it to me. How do you know? What information do you have? What evidence? Prove it, beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Is it important, after so much agony, to know every last detail?

"Of course it is," James Bias said. "He's my son. He's a part of me. And anything that happens to him I need to know about. And I should know about it. It's my right to know about it. Anything that affects him affects me. Any of my children. My wife. They're a part of me, and I'm a part of them."

Almost a year later, Len still dominates certain parts of the Bias home. An oil portrait, given all prominent Maryland senior athletes, is no more than a large step inside the front door. Usually, fresh flowers lie below the painting.

In the basement, James Bias talks while seated on a red director's chair Len was given at the '85 Maryland basketball dinner. A matching chair rests nearby, not far from a wall filled with trophies and mementos gathered by Len and the rest of the family.

In her presentations, Lonise Bias refers to the other children as, "Michelle, 18 going on 19, the will of God; Jay, 16 going on 17, the will of God; Eric, 12 going on 13, the will of God. I say the will of God, because I thought Len Bias would see age 23. And he did not."

The family moved to the modest home in Landover in 1975; to his father's surprise, Len soon became prominent at the local recreation center.

Len's athleticism surely came from both sides of the family. Lonise was active in volleyball; James has done "a little basketball, a little recreational weightlifting. I did lots of running, in the service and for seven or eight years later. Eight to 10 miles a day."

Although James' father was about 6 feet 4, Len probably got most of his height from Lonise's side, she being 5-8 and her brothers 6-7 or so.

"One day, Len was skinny and small," James said. "All of a sudden, just like that, he shot up. There was no end to it {until he reached 6-8}. Same way with Jay."

The family seems comfortable with most things that remind them of Len. It no longer is a problem to watch college basketball, or even return to familiar high school gyms for Jay's games. Lonise also sometimes performs, in her way, where Len did years ago.

"The biggest problem for me," James said, "was looking at Leonard's possessions, all piled up in the bedroom. All of his stuff brought from the university. Just put in there. Every time I go in there, I can see his things. His own personal effects.

"Looking at basketball, something that's got nothing to do {in a father-son way} with Len, doesn't bother me one bit. Looking at his picture; looking at his personal things. That's the tough part of it. They say time heals all wounds. And I think in this case, possibly, it will be the same. But you never outlive it, because there's always these question marks. What really happened to Len Bias?"

"The hardest thing for me," Lonise said, "the hardest, even harder than looking at Len's body, was before they took him to the church for viewing, when the stretch {limo} pulled up in front of our home. That super stretch.

"That same time, a week earlier, we were in the living room, having a ball, because it was Father's Day. Len had gotten his father a grill, and my husband was opening his gifts. We were acting crazy, having so much fun. And now here it is, exactly one week later, at the same time, and we're going out to get in a stretch to go over to the undertaker's, to look at his body.

"That tore me up. That tore me up. That was the hardest part . . . There are times, when I see his picture in the living room, that I shake my head and say: 'Where is Leonard? What happened?' It seems as though everything has moved so fast.

"Easter Sunday. He had been dead for 10 months. And at times, I have to wonder: 'How did I get here?' I know it's totally divine strength."

Lonise said she had recently told her daughter how much she especially missed Len at this time of the year, and that Michelle replied: "I miss him all the time." With this, the strong-willed, almost defiant personality Lonise Bias usually shows the public began to crack.

She cried. And in a fairly crowded hallway of the Mayflower Hotel, where she had spoken to a seminar, sponsored by the Psychiatric Institute Foundation and called, "Cocaine: New Strategies in Treatment and Prevention."

Unnerved by this rare show of emotion, a reporter volunteered to leave.

"No," she insisted. "I'm fine. It's just tears. Just a normal thing. He was my baby. I'm not broken up where I can't go on. I'm fine."

The first of hundreds of speeches Lonise Bias gave was July 26, 1986, at a church in Hillcrest Heights. She had been invited to the evening service by a young woman friend of Len's. Other than being mistress of ceremonies in grade school and some efforts at church, she had almost no experience in public speaking.

"I had never decided this," she said, after tucking two more invitations to speak into her purse. "I knew after Len's death. I said: 'Well, Lord, Your will be done.' It turned out that same day, I believe, I was asked to go on the (nationally syndicated) 700 Club. They had seen me at Len's memorial service. They saw my strength and they couldn't believe it. They asked me to give my testimony there -- and I went. After that, everything snowballed."

From church basements to school auditoriums to college lecture halls to high-brow think sessions. She has done them all. A typical week looks like this:

Friday -- that Mayflower lecture in the morning and a church speech that night; Saturday -- Baltimore in the morning and an award in Camp Springs, Md., that night; Sunday and Monday -- Missouri; Tuesday -- home; Wednesday and Thursday -- Connecticut; Friday -- home; Saturday -- Raleigh, N.C.

The family must adjust to her absence. To manage a typically hectic several days, she charged into the kitchen one morning and prepared: two meat loaves, hamburger patties, three dishes of lasagna, three plates of barbecued chicken, two pans of baked beans and some tuna mix. All by the time a car arrived, at 7:30 a.m., to take her to a lecture.

"I never write anything on paper," she said. "It all comes from the heart. I never know what I'll say till I get there. Except that I always get Len and the other things out of the way first."

Those other things, her preamble, includes telling the people she loves them and cares not a whit about their race, that she comes "to offend no man" but also cares "absolutely nothing about what any man thinks of me today."

Then she starts rolling. No need for a microphone in most places. Her message is blunt, and can be viewed with chilly approval at several levels, by bewildered youngsters, by frightened parents, by school officials in desperate need of a rock-firm ally.

She meets her doubters before they have a chance even to raise their eyebrows.

"What qualifies you?" she asks herself. "Where were you when your son died? What makes you such an authority on youth? Why couldn't you save your own son?

"Mrs. Bias {she almost always uses the third person} has been a born-again believer for nine years. She is the same person today she was June 18, 1986, the day before Len Bias died. God took one man to save millions . . . You have no control over the day you are born. Or the day you're gonna die. Len Bias died of cocaine. We all die of something. What we do have control over is that gap, between life and death."

To the parents, she shouts: "Many problems start with a lack of love. L-o-v-e. Know what these {children} want. To be hugged. And kissed. If mom and dad can't make it, how can you expect the child to make it every day?"

To the youngsters, she rails: "You've got to learn to put 'no' back in your vocabulary. Find yourself in love. The greatest love of all is the love you have for yourself."

Not exactly a revelation. But as important as her message is what happens after it. Youngsters flock toward her, and whatever they want -- a hug, an autograph, personal counsel alone -- she obliges.

At Fairmont Heights High School, Lonise talked perhaps 20 minutes and stayed perhaps two hours. The hug line lasted a good 15 minutes. Then she talked with a dozen or so youngsters, individually.

"They just want somebody to listen to them and to understand them," she said. "I come straight from the hip; I don't play games with them. I come right down front with them, and they appreciate it, say: 'She's for real.' "

Almost without skipping a dribble, another Bias arrives among the young forces of basketball. Jay is a slender 6-6, with exceptional leaping ability, a soft shooting touch and the confidence in both to want the ball at critical moments. On the court and off, he has experienced more than most rising seniors.

"If you had to pick one person who's suffered the most," Lonise said, "it has been Jay. We've all suffered the loss. But having to go back to the school where his brother attended. And go back to school with his peers. And then have to play ball on the court his brother played on.

"Then, the first year of Leonard's death, he takes the team to the state championship and has to go out to Cole Field House. That's a lot. People are not always saying kind things.

"But in the midst of his suffering, Jay also has shown great strength. I'm grateful for it. I tell the young people {during her lectures}: 'You say it's hard at home. You say you can't make it. Let me tell you what hard is.' And I tell them about Jay. Or Eric. They go through what you go through every day. And they're still standing."

Heads in high school gyms always strain to identify the next in line of what appears an extraordinary sporting strain. Had Len not died, had he blossomed even into a modestly productive rookie with the Boston Celtics, there would have been considerable pressure on Jay.

Death increased the burden of brotherhood. Maybe geometrically. Even relative outsiders could sense it. In fact, Jay was ejected from one game for throwing an elbow. He was involved in a shoving incident in another game and was knocked woozy, from a punch, and taken to a nearby hospital during a fracas in still another.

"I not only could sense it," James Bias said of the pressures on Jay. "I could see it. I could see a certain amount of animosity coming from certain individuals." The father sees his oldest sons and said . . .

"When Lenny was home, he was home. We didn't talk about basketball if he didn't want to. He came here {the basement} and rassled all over the place {with Jay and Eric}. On the sofa. Chasin' around the house. He didn't seem the same person on the basketball court: forceful, aggressive, trying to force his will on others.

"Jay's the same way, except he's more observant about things around him. Even as a little boy, he was kind of like I was. He wouldn't do too much playing with the other kids. But if you looked around, Jay would be staring you right in the eye. He'd be studying you, to see what you'd do. He could tell your little habits."

Jay and guard Clinton Venable were a formidable inside-outside combination for Northwestern. Still, with all the turmoil (the Northwestern coach, Bob Wagner, had resigned for "personal reasons"), few figured on what actually took place: a state championship.

Jay will make most of the big-time basketball camps this summer; the fall will bring more family-wide remembrances of Len, because Jay will be starting that ritual known as recruiting. Famous coaches once more will troop to the Bias basement to make their pitches.

"Memories? Naturally," said James. "Going through the same thing. Talking to basically the same people about the same things. Why you should go to my school. Why you should do this and that. We have the best to offer. Don't go over there. He's no good. It's the same thing, over and over.

"But I've been there before. I've learned a lot from that. A very expensive lesson, really. I can deal with it a little better. I know what needs to be done -- and how to approach it." NEXT: The effect at Maryland