George Perles, assistant head coach in charge of the Pittsburgh Steelers' world championship defense, was left standing in the wings as Michigan State named a head football coach yesterday and proved it is never too late to dream.

Frank (Muddy) Waters got the job, at 56. A giant step from Saginaw Valley State, and the coaching post and athletic directorship he has held since the school started football in 1974: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to Big Ten.

"This appointment is something I've dreamed of for 30 years and thought had passed me by," and Waters, a star Michigan State fullback 1946-49 but virtually unmentioned as the new athletic director, Doug Weaver, a fellow ex-Spartan, hunted a successor to Darryl Rogers, who skipped out with Weaver's predecessor.

Perles, yet another Spartan grad, had expected to be interviewed by weaver today, and -- after being passed up for the Colt NFL job -- was "curious and anxious" to see about it.

Paul (Daffy) Dean, the not really daffy half of the brother pitching act, circa St. Louis Cardinal Gashouse Gang, was stricken with a heart attack Sunday and listed in serious condition in Springdale (Ark.) Memorial Hospital at last report. Sandy Dean, son of Paul, 65, and nephew of the late Jerome (Dizzy) Dean, said "The doctors have told us it will be touch-and-go for the next 48 to 72 hours. . . for us to gather the family together."

Jesse Owens, 66, has checked out of the Tucson hospital and returned to his Phoenix-area home for outpatient for his cancerous left lung. The track great smoked a pack a day for 35 years. . . Going home today from George Washington U Hospital: Doug Gould, GW's intrepid sports information director these 11 years.He had a back operation; recovery inspired by the Colonials' basketball surge or is it the other way around?. . .

"Wow, what a palace!" said one observer on first look as the Baltimore Colts moved into their new training complex at Owings Mills on Monday. Put in Colt staffer Dick Bielski, a former aide here, "This makes Redskin Park look like an afterthought." But no lounge room for players? "We were thinking about one," said a project engineer, "but Ted Marchibroda didn't think it was a good idea." That was before somebody decided Marchibroda wasn't a good idea. . .

It's become epidemic this year, major-college basketball coaches released at midseason, and the latest is Lynn Nance, splitting from Iowa State. Only last year Nance was given a two-year extension but parting is by mutual agreement "to facilitate Iowa State in obtaining a new coach prior to signing dates for recruits." They'll pay him off with a year's salary $33,500, in installments. . .

One more honor for Coach Jack Pardee -- the National Football Clinic's Vincent T. Lombardi Awards for outstanding work in the pros. Presentation to the Redskin leader came off yesterday in Atlantic City, where nearly 900 college and high school coaches assembled for four days of illumination.