The U.S.A. will look to Providence for guidance toward a basketball gold medal in Moscow - where, who knows, it might take divine intervention to prevent something like the 1977 gold heist, to the Soviet via the officials, in the 1972 Munich basketball final.

Dave Gavitt, coach of Providence College's Friars, has named yesterday by the 22-member American Basketball Association Games Committee, meeting in Colorado Springs, to coach the U.S. team in the 1980 Olympics. That leaves the likes of Joe B. Hall, Eddie Suttez, Denny Crun and Bobby Knight to concentrate on their collegiate knittin' while Gavitt picks up a bit of distraction starting about a year from now (but maybe also a leg up here and there in recruiting?). And for advice, Gavitt, 40, who has done a perennially fine job in nine years at Providence, always can turn to UNC-le Dean Smith for the word on how his Yank squad won it all at Montreal in '76. Or tab one or more of the eminent above for his staff of assistants . . .

Leadership? Score another for New Zealand as the Red Sox, in the midst of their worst slump of 1978, did the right thing by the Don Zimmer (202-134 at the Boston helm since July 19, 1976 and extended his contract through the 1979 season "with renewable options for each succeeding year" (which helps in the money league if not necessarily in job security). Way to take care of those old Nats . . . With the Bosox off the wicked road, they may not be long getting Zimmer's lifetime managerial record in the majors from 316-324 up to .500, but the report on Carl Yastrsemski is no help. Dr. Arthur Pappas explained after Captain Yaz was hospitalized upon taking his aching back home from Texas ahead of the squad that his recurrent twings, spasma, etc, owe to "a defect in two small bones that we are going to try to cure with hot packs, medication and bed rest."

Too bad Doc Medich of the Rangers couldn't help. But pitcher-surgeon Medich, fresh off a two-hit win, scores again medically to impressed were his teammates when he revived a heart attack victim before a game in Baltimore last week that virtually the whole Ranger squad has agreed to sign up for a hospital course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation he hopes to set up next time stand.

That reminds us, local sportscaster Ron Sutton, a recent heart attack case, was lookin' mighty chipper (we're told) at the Star tennis tourney . . . WDVM-TV's Frank Herzeg says he hates giving up the Bullet radiocasts but he's not quite through yet: available via WTOP or at your neighborhood Drug Fair is a champion Bullets highlights record featuring Herzog game descriptive . . . On NBC radio today, the man with the mike for the induction ceremonies and postgame-isma at the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, will be Washington Jack Fleischer, whose brief tenure as Redskin publicist was marked by one big storm. And, hey, says Fleischer, "I'm working on an article about George Allen" . . . And look who else has agreed to a contract renewal, and would have thought it in April? Gene Munch, for three more years with Calvia Griffith and the Twins . . .

Bill Veeck staged a second "opener" for his second-division-mired White Sox last night but almost made bigger news. Word's out that Lee MacPhail, the AL president, suggested "six or seven weeks ago that the Chisox and New York Yankees swap managers - Bob Lemon for Billy Martin. No denials, now that Lemon has relieved Martin after Veeck opted for Larry Doby instead of the projected bigger blockbuster . . . almost as bad as a certain column swapping WBA for WBC in yesterday's boxing story.