Last year at this time, college basketball observers had no trouble singling out a player of the year. The word was Bird, a virtually unanimous consensus (with Magic's NCAA Moment yet to come). This time around, they're arguing.

Mark Aguirre, said United Press International.

Darrell Griffith, decreed the Sporting News' NBA panel.

Michael Brooks, says the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

La Salle's senior forward -- No. 7 career scorer in NCAA annals with 2,628 points in four year (but outpointed in the East by American's Boo Bowers this season) -- received the coaches' Eastman Award yesterday in New York.

"No, I haven't hired an agent," said Brooks. "My plans now are to keep in shape and try to make the Olympic team, if there is an Olympic team, or play in whatever event that is substituted in case of a Moscow boycott. I plan to bide my time." About the NBA, that is.

The coaches' all-star five includes Brooks, Aguirre, Griffith and two others who may yet win "player of year" recognition from other experts: Joe Barry Carroll and Kyle Macy.

Indiana Coach Bobby Knight had Brooks on his U.S. gold-medal team in the Pan American Games and said of the 6-7 1/2 athlete, "If I were starting a team, he would be the first player chosen." Hmmm, and No. 1 vote-getter for the college all-star game March 29 in Las Vegas is not Brooks but Knight's own Hoosier forward, Mike Woodson. First in the hearts of the pizza-eaters, anyway -- and among his teammates on the East senior squad will be Hawkeye Whitney.

All a far cry from 1979 when about the only honor not won by Larry Bird was just as Tweet -- Alton Byrd of Columbia as Big Little Man, outstanding player under 6 feet (5-8) . . .

Quick fix: Navy's football banquet at the academy is April 2 (not 12, as per typo in Tuesday's space) . . .

Comedian Norm Crosby due in town Friday to announce a "Help America Hear!" celebrity amateur gold tournament (June 21-22, Washingtonian CC) geared to raise $100,000 for the Better Hearing Institute . . .

Redskins chapter of NFL Alumni reminding that its first charity golf tourney ($300 entry covers a host of favors, plus chance to swing alongside active 'Skins such as Joe Theismann, Mike Bragg, Mark Murphy, etc.). And $100 gets nongolfers into the festivities side of the May 5 Indian Spring event . . .

The roast-toast-he's-the-most for Hymie Perlo approaches: sorry, sold out, already, at K of C in Forestville Friday . . . But capitalians (?) still can get in on the latest Harold Bell "salute to" special: to Dave Jacobs, to benefit the Oakcrest boxing program Jacobs heads along with training Sugar Ray Leonard. Celebs galore expected at Foxtrappe Club, 16th and R Streets NW, Sunday March 23, 6-10 p.m., and thank goodness Jacobs' last trip was to coach amateur boxers touring Sweden, not Poland . . .

Eric Heiden, in far-off Norway perhaps sheltered from reports of U.S. Olympic hockey team alumni being battered stem to stern in the pros -- John Harrington, for instance, kayoed for five minutes, hospitalized overnight after an AHL collision -- says he will do his future skating as a hockey player. That, fortunately, will be in less violent Oslo, with the first-division team Manglerud-Star, while the quintuple-gold speed skater attends the Norwegian Sports University.

A second person, Donald Osinski, 42, of Fairview, Pa., has died as a result of the collision in which Floyd Smith, Toronto Maple Leafs coach, was injured Friday. A woman in Osinski's car was killed when Smith's auto crossed the median on Queen Elizabeth Way near St. Catharines. Police say Smith's statement, that he neither fell asleep at the wheel nor had been drinking, check outs -- they are combing his vehicle for evidence of mechanical failure. . . . With Smith just out of the hospital -- broken kneecap, cuts and bruises -- the NHL club's general manager decided yesterday to take over as coach for the season. Yep, Punch Imlach.