Give or take a little poetic license, this could be a true story: A funny thing happened to Monte Clark on the way to talk over the Buffalo NFL head-coaching vacancy with the Bills' owner, Ralph Wilson, whose home base is Detroit. Clark ran into the Lions' owner, William Clay Ford, and took the Detroit head-coaching job.

At any rate, the Detroit News and the Oakland Press of Pontiac - where the Lions play football - report that the former San Francisco 49er coach is in and interim mentor Tommy Hudspeth is out. And Clark, from the Bay area where he has been drawing salary not to coach GM Joe Thomas' Niners, replies, "I'm not going to confirm or deny or speak about it."

Well, neither would we, but we thought local coaches at loose ends ought to know the merry-go-round hasn't stopped yet and one never knows where the brass ring might present itself. Like Jim Ringo, whose Buffalo job Wilson is looking to fill, accepting the post of offensive line coach with the New England Patriots yesterday.

Red Miller left the Pat assistantship to become coach of the 1977 Denver Broncos - and Miller has just made UPI coach of the year in the AFC. The sportswriter panel gave Miller 48 votes, the other 8 to Miami's Don Shula - from whose offensive staff the pre-Thomas 49ers plucked Clark as head coach. Hmmm, it was as recently as 1973 that Denver had another AFC coach of the year. What was the fellow's name? Oh year, John Ralston, Sic transit gloria mundi . . .

General managers aren't immune at purge season. Al Ward, veteran public relations man for the premerger American Football League and then the dallas Cowboys, "resigned" yesterday after three years as GM of the New York Jets. The third year was under Jim Kensil, veteran NFL public relations man who became club president. He eased Ward out of much of his authority - and still came out 3-11, just as the Jets did in 1975, and 1976.