Don DeVoe, a dark horse among a gaggle of mighty familiar names bantered about (even a left-hander or two) as the Man for Tennessee, has only to volunteer a "yes" today to win a five-year contract to direct Vol basketball fortunes.

Maybe even put 'em out front with the No.1 Lady Vols?

At Wyoming, DeVoe slipped from a 17-10 inaugural to 12-15 this winter, but in Knoxville they admire his 88-45 job the preceding four years at Virginia Tech, including the 1973 NIT title. And the fact he assisted fellow Buckeye Bobby Knight when the current Indiana coach was at Army.

He would replace Ray Mears, who gave Kentucky a good run for Southeastern Conference supremacy for many of his 15 campaigns before he wore himself to a nervous frazzle and was retired last week . . .

Two much DeVoe evidently won't get to match SEC strategy with: Bob Davis of Auburn, Ron Greene of Mississippi State.

Davis, 50, is one of college basketball's dozen 500-game winners, but only 70-61 at his current station (415-182 in 23 years at Georgetown-Ky., that is); unofficial word is that he'll get the official as soon as he gets back from a recruiting trip.

Greene, who led Mississippi State to 18.9 and a piece of SEC second place this year, his first at Starkville, says he is "leaning in the direction" rent Indiana coach was at Army...of alma mater Murray State.Decision due today...

Turnabout is fair play, and after accompanying Dick Harter to Penn State, ostensibly to tag along as assistant, Jim Haney flew home yesterday - where a news conference was set up at the Eugene, Ore, airport to unveil him as head basketball coach at Oregon... First of 80 to be interviewed by Brown is a guy with the qualifications to help the Bruins climb in the Ivy; joe Mullancy, a 271-game winner at Providence, later prominent in the ABA, now coaching in Italy... And rightchere in Fairfax, George Mason U. will see how well John Linn, embattled last season, can coach basketball as just a basketball coach. The appointment of John Cook and Wade Privette as track coaches relieves Linn of related duty (cross country, etc.) - and, if head coach Cook is as excellent as he has been setting the area pace for decade at Edison high, and Privette at Mount Vernon, GMU could be bigger-timing it on court and cenderath too...

"The NBA looks toward winning games ratCinderpath too . . .

"The NBA looks toward winning games rather than building character," 7-foot-2 Ralph Drollinger told a New York news conference. "You must ask how you can best serve Jesus Christ, not where you can make the most money. God has given me an exciting ministry with Athletes In Action. Does he want me to walk away? I think not."

So, the former UCLA center who barnstorms with Campus Crusade for Christ's AIA on a $7,500 missionary scholarship, turned down a $400,000, three-year, no-cut contract with the New Jersey Nets.

Where do (the) Nets find $400,000 anyway? Surely not in the salary saved by Bill Melchionni's resignation this week as general manager - reportedly partly over concern over the team's financial viability. Especially, with a federal judge due to rule March 31 on whether Roy Boe's relocated-in-Piscataway outfit must pay the N.Y.Knicks the $3.2 territorial indeminity they claim...

The NHL trading deadline passed at noon Tuesday, Caps fans... Baseball's preseason interleague trading deadline came last midnight, and little had stirred by this writing. Only the completion of the early-December Mets-Rangers-Pirates-Braves humdinger, with Texas now sending along veteran Ken Henderson to make the Mets use initials in boxes... A few months back, PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman sought to cut off the season after early October, largely to avoid conflict with the NFL - and was overruled by the $$$-eyed golfers. Now Beman would push the January part of the tour calendar into the late autumn - to avoid conflict with the NFL's increasingly Januaryish post-season playoffs. Can't sell TV time against conference championships and the Super Bowl, he knows...