Fifteen years after Ed Tapscott first tried to sneak into American University basketball practices, he formally was introduced as the Eagles' 14th head coach at a press conference in the university's Washington College of Law building yesterday.

Tapscott, 28, a graduate of Tufts University and American's law school, replaces Gary Williams (72-42), who was named head coach at Boston College on Monday.

"While I was attending (1967-71) Sidwell Friends (minutes from American's Northwest D.C. campus) I used to come to AU to watch practice," said Tapscott. "The doors were always locked so I had to look through the cracks between the doors. I was an admirer of Kermit Washington and Tom Young's coaching and I hope to continue that legacy. The doors might not be locked now, but there will be someone watching who comes in."

Tapscott, who began his career as freshman coach at Tufts and worked under Williams for four seasons, promised little change in AU's playing style. He has 13 lettermen returning from a 20-9 team that went to the NIT for the second straight season.

"We'll continue our pressing defense, fast break offense, with a whole lot of hustle," said Tapscott. His immediate plans are to find "an inside player for our program and decide on my assistant coaches."

Frank Dunphy, American's second assistant, is in line to become Tapscott's top aide. Tapscott, who had considered leaving coaching this spring to practice law, will now put those plans aside.

No contract details were announced.