Georgetown's breakthrough player, the first major recruit with no career-long ties to John Thompson, the Washingtonian who let it be known to others that a big-timer could get a fine education on the court and off, was Al Dutch.

"The tough times," Billy Stein recalled, "were at the beginning, when, for different reasons, people would say (to great high school players) not to come here. Academically, it was too hard. Or he might not play, for certain reasons. Lotta people were scared to come here, afraid to take a gamble.

"Al (in '75) probably was the first super player to come. After that came Craig (Shelton) and John (Duren) and the rest. Except for the St. Anthony's kids (who followed Thompson), nobody early on was that highly recruited. But that's what got us here now. The guys who were here before got all the banners, made the program (for the Ewings and Floyds to carry to the NCAA final four this weekend)."

Stein jumped in before anyone. When Thompson asked his former Providence teammate to be chief assistant shortly after being hired by Georgetown in March of '72, Stein inquired about the program's stability. What was the record the previous season?

3-23.

"Guess we can't do any worse," he said.

Win or lose in New Orleans, the 10-year relationship between Thompson and Stein at Georgetown will end next week. Having helped lay the foundation for a basketball bastion as solid as any in the country, Stein is going to step away, in a direction that on the surface seems illogical.

After a decade in Thompson's enormous shadow, this would seem the time to go off on his own as a head coach. He's paid his dues, suffered and sacrificed, showed he has all the virtues necessary to make a bad program good or a good one better.

As a youngster, he wanted to be a head coach.

As a man nearing 40 with a family, he senses athletic administration is best.

Shortly, he will be athletic director at St. Peter's College.

"I sorta thought I couldn't coach all my life," he said. "I thought now might be as good a time as any (to make the break). I was an assistant athletic director (at Bryant College in Rhode Island) before I came here. And I really liked that.

"I've had chances to be a head coach, and turned them down. Tomorrow, I might reverse myself and come back. Today, I like the administrative part. Maybe do some other things, also. I think it's easy to go back, but very difficult to move up.

"Athletic directors jobs don't come often."

Thompson, tall, black and blustery, and Stein, small, white and quiet, met as freshmen at Providence in 1960 and became close.

"It's hard to work for somebody who's your friend," Stein said. He was standing in McDonough Arena, which was half empty for Georgetown games 10 years ago and is too tiny now for the Beast of the East. "A lotta times when people do that they take advantage of it. Nothing like that here. I don't think I could ever outwork him.

"Never. Never. Like all the time."

When the Shelton-Duren-Floyd Georgetown team lost to Iowa in the 1980 Eastern regionals, Stein thought it would be more than two years before there would be another chance at the final four.

"That year, I thought we could have won the whole thing," he said. "And I thought it would be awhile before we got back there. Certain schools you can say are gonna be there every year. At that time, I wasn't sure about us. Now (with Ewing), I think we've got a shot (at being an annual contender)."

Stein plays down the family aspects of leaving coaching for administration. Earlier, he said he wanted to see his two young sons grow up, and that surely was a major factor. He may have realized that sounded too harsh, implied that every coach who stays cannot have a deep family relationship.

"And an athletic director's job is not 8 to 5," he said. "But 10 years here was seven days a week. Even when you went on vacation, you still were recruiting. She basically is raising them. That's what it comes down to. She's the one who has to take them to practice and all the other things; I show up for the games.

"Even now, she'll say: 'Why don't you stay?' Guess she's also got mixed emotions, maybe more than I do. Because we both like it here."

Athletic Director Frank Rienzo has experienced Stein's feelings.

"I saw my life (at Archbishop Malloy High School) being pushed closer and closer to administration and further and further from coaching," he said, "so I came to Georgetown (13 years ago) because of an opportunity to coach (track).

"Within three years, I was funneled back into administration anyhow.

"I think that with Billy, although certainly basketball is his first love, when you see the kind of life head coaches and assistants must lead, the little bit of time it leaves them at home, you can understand that a change of direction provides a chance to be with the family in a different way.

"For example, when I go to a game, my wife and children can come and sit with me. When the coaches go to a game, they don't even have that time to share together."

An emotional man, Stein let some memories flow. The most meaningful was Thompson being so considerate to him and his mother after his father died just before the Boston College game more than a month ago. It was too private to talk about.

"I'm looking forward to going there," Stein said of his new challenge. "But I'm not looking forward to leaving here."