The door burst open and Jim Kehoe strode into the tiny office, with the vice chancellor of the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore trying to keep up with him.

"Messages?" Kehoe asked a secretary, then without waiting for an answer turned to a visitor and said, "I'll be with you in one minute.You just sit right down and make a couple of important decisions, okay?"

Turning to walk into his own office, Kehoe spotted a student, standing in a corner, almost shying away from the energy Kehoe had carried into the room with him.

"You need me?" Kehoe asked.

The youngster nodded, handing some forms to Kehoe.

"Okay, Maurice," Kehoe said, finding the name on the form, "do we need to do this now or can we do it later?"

Later, was the answer.

"Fine then," Kehoe said. "You just come back anytime you want. I'll be here until about midnight."

With that, Jim Kehoe, technically UMES's "part-time" athletic director, turned, picked up the messages the secretary had put in front of him and walked into his office, ready to begin a 12- to 14-hour day.

He is 61 now and it has been 12 months since he retired after nine years as athletic director at the University of Maryland. But Kehoe looks and sounds little different today than when he was Terrapin track coach.

The crew-cut hair, the flashy clothes, the flag pin in his lapel, the spring in his step and the strident, urgent tones in which he speaks are all still there.

Kehoe does not find his current position, heading the athletic department of a tiny, predominantly black school, out of sync with his past.

"This is a part of the University of Maryland system; that makes it important to me," he said. "I know every road in this state. I would do anything for the university. I am Maryland. That's why I'm here. To help the university."

He has moved from the plush office he occupied in College Park to a tiny room with bare, cinderblock walls. It contains only a small desk, three chairs and a football poster.

After operating one of the nation's most successful athletic programs for nine years, a $3 million annual operation, he now is running an athletic program with an operating budget of less than $100,000 which finished more than $150,000 in the red a year ago.

Perhaps that is why Kehoe is here.

"I've always been a man who likes a challenge," he said, rocking forward in his chair. "When they asked me to come down here and look the place over in the spring, I did it. And when I saw what the situation looked like here I just had to help out. I felt needed."

Something definitely is needed at UMES. The facilities at the 1,000-student school are run down in the classic sense -- a small football field fal- len into disrepair, a tiny gym and claustrophobic locker rooms. Kehoe won a major victory recently when he managed to get a washing machine installed so athletes would not have to wash their own equipment. Now he is working on a dryer.

"I only plan to be here for a year, so I know I'm going to have to work fast," Kehoe said. "But let me tell you right now, I'm going to balance the budget. I'm going to improve the facilities for our athletes."

Kehoe slammed a fist into an open palm.

"I have done it before and that is a matter of record; you can look it up. And I will do again, here."

Jim Kehoe has never been a man who believed in moderation. He ran track as a youngster growing up in Bel Air, Md., and was good enough to get a track scholarship to Maryland. There, he ran in three national championship relays and captained the team.

"Those three relays were my biggest thrill, still are to this day," Kehoe said. "Being an athletic director is okay, but there's no feeling like breaking the tape first or being the coach of a great team. That's what I loved best."

After a stint in the Marines, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Kehoe returned to Maryland as track coach and built the Terps a track dynasty. At one point under Kehoe, Maryland won 16 straight Atlantic Coast Conference track titles both indoors and outdoors.

Kehoe took over as athletic director in 1969 amidst a swirl of controversy over Bob Ward, football coach, Maryland graduate and a close friend of Kehoe. The players were in revolt: Kehoe, still only the athletic director designee, convinced Ward to resign.

"That was the toughest decision I ever had to make," Kehoe said, his voice softening for the first and only time during a two-hour interview. "Bob Ward may have been Maryland's greatest athlete pound for pound. He was a Maryland man all the way. He loved the school just like I do.

"I didn't deserve to have to make that decision. But I made it."

From there Kehoe methodically went about putting the Maryland athletic program on its feet. He hired Jerry Claiborne as football coach and Lefty Driesell as basketball coach and they turned awful teams into good ones. He fought for -- and kept -- the student activities fee and he hired his old teammate and friend Tom Fields to be his chief fund-raiser. Fields turned $29,000 a year into $938,000 last year.

Kehoe did enough things right during his tenure in College Park to turn Maryland athletics from a losing proposition into a moneymaker. And, in an era when 3 percent of the schools in the NCAA make money, that was an accomplishment.

But in 1978 Kehoe had a falling out with Maryland Chancellor Robert Gluckstern and announced his retirement, although he remained at the school as a consultant to his successor, Carl James.

"No matter how you look at it, Jim Kehoe just wasn't ready for a rocking chair," Fields said. "He loves spending time with his wife (Barbara) and when he gets out on a tennis court with his brother, it's like world war three. But I don't think he was ready to go home and rest."

Obviously not. Kehoe is, above all else, a competitor. As Maryland's AD he was a legend in the ACC for his tirades during ball games. Once at the ACC basketball tournament he leaped out of his front row seat, swung an arm in frustration over a referee's call and clipped a passing vendor on the top of the head.

None of that has changed. Kehoe does not expect UMES football or basketball teams to win any championships this year, but he does expect improvement after losing seasons.

"My attitude has always been that if you don't want to be the best there is, I don't want you working for me. I have no use for people who accept defeat. People who feel differently baffle me."

Kehoe was asked to take over the UMES program by Maryland President John Toll and by Herb Brown, an old friend, who is on the university's board of regents.

Kehoe is just getting started in his rebuilding job here.

"I am going to balance the budtet, I am going to improve the facilities," Kehoe insisted, again repeating his favorite phrase: "I've done it before, it's a matter of record. You can look it up. I can do it again."

Kehoe will balance the budget because he will do the same thing he did at Maryland -- when the money runs out, he will stop spending. There will be no borrowing.

Whether he can do that and turn perennial losers in football and basketball into winners is another question. Hard work and determination have always been Kehoe's two main "[WORDS ILLEGIBLE]" are. And if that "[WORDS ILLEGIBLE]" get the job done here, the job will get done.

"Being an athletic director is like playing a game," Kehoe said. "There are no intangibles. In sports you win or lose. In this job you make money or you lose money. There's no in between.

"Sure, this is a hard job and I don't have a plush office any more. But you only live once and not too long. You might as well do everything you do all out."

Which is the only way Jim Kehoe ever does anything.

"Jim Kehoe winces if he feels $10 has been wasted." James said, "He knows that $10 add up. That's how he did what he did in College Park. He never wasted a dollar."

It's a matter of record; you can look it up.