George Mason University went for the expected and Navy for the unexpected yesterday in filling vacant head coaching basketball jobs.

GMU named Joe Harrington, a former Maryland player and assistant coach, and the university president said the school will emphasize the sport to the "level of major state universitities that are concerned with athletics as an integral part of their program."

Navy decided on Paul Evans, the successful coach at Division III power St. Lawrence, as its new coach, replacing the fired Bob Hamilton, it was learned. Evans' appointment will be announced at a 10:30 a.m. press conference today in Annapolis.

The naming of Evans, 35, who took St. Lawrence to a 126-50 record and six NCAA Division III tournaments in seven years at the upstate New York school, apparently is geared toward Navy's goal of joining the Ivy League in basketball.

Evans, who played a running brand of basketball at St. Lawrence, was a finalist for the Cornell job this year. Another finalist in the Navy picture was Tony Relvas, No. 1 assistant at Princeton, who had two interviews in Annapolis.

Evans, a native of Carlisle, Pa., attended Ithaca College and earned a master's degree at St. Lawrence. He began his coaching career at Hoover Junior High in Kenmore, N.Y., before moving to State University of New York at Genesco as an assistant coach in 1969.He was hired at St. Lawrence in 1973.

Evans could not be reached for comment and the length and terms of his contract could not be learned.

Harrington agreed to a one-year contract at George Mason, with a handshake for at least three years, according to Bob Epskamp, the GMU athletic director, who said employs of state universities can sign only one-year contracts.

Harrington's salary will be in the $25,000 range, it was learned. He named Rick Barnes, the No. 2 assistant at Davidson College as his fulltime assistant.

Harrington, 34, and the George Mason job seem perfect for each other. Harrington, who was Lefty Driesell's assistant at Maryland for 10 years before getting the head job at Hofstra last season (where he was 14-14), wanted to return to this area, mainly because his wife Ann remained here as an assistant state's attorney in Montgomery County.

He brings a high degree of enthusiasm, knowledge of a big-time program, head coaching experience and what Epskamp termed "impeccable integrity" to his new job. The athletic director said that while Mason wants to go big time, it does not want "to short-circuit some items that are basic foundations of an educational institution."

As GMU's first full-time coach in any sport, Harrington said his immediate goal "is to make the NCAA tournament next year or the year after." iThe core of last season's 5-21 team, the last uner part-time Coach John Linn, returns, including 5-foot-10 center Andre Gaddy.

George Johnson, GMU's president for the past 21 months and an avid basketball fan, said that if Fairfax County does not build an arena in the near future, he believes the universityshould, "and I would want to see planning horizon within two years."

Also attending yesterday's press conference at the Holiday Inn in Fairfax was Driesell. At one point, Harrington was asked whether he would coin a slogan for his program, as Driesell did when he came to Maryland and proclaimed he wanted to be "the UCLA of the East."

Harrington looked down the podium toward Driesell, who replied: "My advice to you is: Don't have one."