They are the Mutt and Jeff of NBA coaches: San Antonio's Doug Moe - the tall, modish former pro basketball star - and Washington's Dick Motta the bantam rooster, referee battler and former junior high school teacher.

Moe is carefree, fun-loving, informal and the first to admit he'll never be known as a master tactician in league circles. His club is loose, frequently undisciplined and usually uninhibited.

Motta is a stickler for detail, a disciplinarian with a quick temper and flare for the dramatic. His team is more structured rarely controversial and almost always low-key and unemotional.

"I can't really tell until I study the game films," Motta said frequently during the quarterfinal playoff series between the teams.

"Game films? I let my assistant (Bob Bass) watch them for me. He knows what to look for, anyway," Moe says with a big smile.

Moe, in his second year as head coach, let his players decide what tactics they should employ against Washington in game five Tuesday night. San Antonio won, 116-105, to cut the Bullets' lead to only one in the best-of-seven series.

Motta, who has spent 10 years in the NBA perfecting his coaching techniques, will talk with his players about strategy, but the final choices always are made by him and his talented assistant, Bernie Bickerstaff.

Moe's approach was effective enough for the Spurs to win 52 games this season, third highest in the league, while capturing the Central Division title.

But Motta's style has dominated this playoff series. The Bullets have neutralized the Spurs' overplay defense, taken advantage of their lack of power and beaten them at their own running game. In the process, they took away San Antonio's home-court advantage and need only to win tomorrow night at Capital Centre to advance to the semifinal round.

Moe, who said before meeting Washington that he would not change things "we do that got us this far." reversed himself in game four and instructed his run-and-gun players to slow down and execute a sit-it-up offense. Until the Bullets rallied in the final minute to pull out a victory, the unorthodox decision appeared touched with genius.

His players voted to return to their running ways in game five and won going away. Now Moe says he is likely to stay with a fast-tempo approach, although he'll make a final decision while playing as many rounds of golf before game time as he can.

But he won't think too deeply. When he was an assistant under Larry Brown with the Denver Nuggets, Moe saw how that club "used to play one way to get into the playoffs and then start calling all types of plays once the playoffs started and get messed up.

"I'm not much for a lot of structure. I saw one club in the NCAA (Michigan State) hold up cards from the bench to tell the players what defense they should be in. I'd need a designated thinker to do that. By the time I got a card up, everyone would be at the other end of the court."

Until this series, San Antonio susually ran only one true play, which is designated to isolate George Gervin at the top of the key. Otherwise, the Spurs employed a free-lance passing game. But they broke out a few new twists in Sunday's near-win that Motta admitted did not show up in the Bullets' thorough scouting report on San Antonio.

"I'd still like to play with more freedom," said Moe. "I don't try to impress anyone with my brains. I do what is comfortable. I don't want to know about my players' personal lives. I plug my ears to all that. All I want is for them to play well once they suit up."

Moe claims he holds some sort of record for taking the longest of any pro athlete to secure a college degree. It took him four years at North Carolina, two years at Elon "and five years of summer school, both sessions, to get it.

"But I did it. I started with four Fs and a D the first semester, so you see how far I had to come. Now my kid comes home with straight As and I tell his mother that it's bad. You have to struggle in life. A couple of bad trades never hurt anyone."

He says all this with a sparkle in his eye. He is one of the least pretentious people in the NBA, a man who hasn't got his ego overcome his quest for having a good time and a good laugh.

Moe is blessed with the street wisdom gained from growing up in Brooklyn. He learned his basketball playing under Frank McGuire at North Carolina and was an ABA all-star before hurting a knee and retiring.

But he coaches to his own beat. He says he doesn't scout opponents. His teams are not known for their defense, although the Spurs have made improvement in that area this year. Mostly, however, Moe produces exciting, fan-pleasing clubs that are as out-going as he is.

Motta is just as outgoing off the court. Blessed with a quick wit, he can be charming and friendly and a good conversationalist.

But his coaching techniques are much more traditional than Moe's. Motta believes in scouting reports, films, structured practices (Spur workouts usually are short, simple and full of clowning) and the soundness of his teachings, especially on offense.

"What I do has been time-tested," he said. "We've won in this league with the same plays for a lot of years. I don't believe in chaging things. You make adjustments but if what you are doing is sound, it should be sound no matter what the situation."

Motta isn't quite the firebrand who once led the NBA in technicals. He has learned to pick his spots for emotional outbursts during games, a change referees surely welcome.

But, he is still driven by an intense almost as much, she said. "We had the league as an obscure former college coach. Now only six others have won more NBA games. Yet he doesn't seem content with hsi success, at least until he wins his first championship.

"I've won but, I've been frustrated almost as much," he said. "We had the third-best record four times when I was at Chicago and we never had the home-court advantage for the playoffs. If was suicide every year."

Motta had hoped that this Bullet team would become one of the NBA's dominant forces, only to see his dream destroyed by midseason injuries. Now he is trying to make up for the disappointment of finishing third in the Eastern Conference by going further in the playoffs than almost anyone expected.

"Playoffs are a joy for coaches," he said. "You get to play the same team enough so you can work on their weaknesses and take advantage of them. You can make adjustments every game and try to vary your strategy.

"I get as involved and as excited as the players. Its a fun time but it's also a test of everyone's abilities. And when you know you have accomplished something, boy, does it feel good.

"I still feel good about this team. I just hope I'm as pleased after Friday night."