The American University basketball team, winner of 45 games the past two seasons, will show several changes Monday when it opens its season against St. Mary's in Ed Tapscott's debut as head coach.

Tapscott has moved 6-foot-6 Juan Jones from center to power forward. Jones is an active defensive player and often gave away height defending last year. As a result, he sometimes found himself in early foul trouble. "He'll be playing more against guys his own size. He doesn't seem to get in foul trouble that quickly," Tapscott said.

Andre Adams, a 6-8 reserve power forward last season, will start at center. Tapscott said he will use Ferdie Aunon, last season's starter at power forward, off the bench. Tapscott's reasoning: he wants his best defensive team to start the game and says that Aunon "can be an explosive scorer off the bench."

In a telephone conference call set up to announce Penn State's acceptance of a bid to the Sugar Bowl, it quickly became apparent that the coaches, Georgia's Vince Dooley and Penn State's Joe Paterno, were old friends. "Sue (Paterno) said to tell Barbara (Dooley) she'll bring her own bathing suit this trip," Paterno told Dooley as soon as the coaches began chatting.

A reporter from Georgia asked Paterno why Penn State and Georgia have never played each other during the regular season. Noting that Penn State already plays a home-and-home series with Alabama, Paterno said of playing both teams in the same year: "I might have scheduled that for 1990 if I was athletic director, for the next coach, but I'm sure not going to do that for myself."

A decade ago, slowdown tactics in basketball were also on the minds of many coaches and officials--but not because of anything like last year's Atlantic Coast Conference championship game between North Carolina and Virginia, but because of Steve Bilsky, George Washington University's athletic director-designate.

Bilsky was the point guard on the University of Pennsylvania's undefeated 1971 Ivy League champions. At late stages of games that year, he and Dave Wohl ran down the clock by dribbling near midcourt without advancing the ball. The next year, the hash mark was put in and a rule that says the dribbler must cross that line in five seconds. Dick Harter, his coach, came back from a meeting of the basketball rules committee and told Bilsky, "They put that rule in because of you."

Tim Knight, son of the Indiana coach and a freshman at Stanford, is basketball manager for new Coach Tom Davis, formerly of Boston College. "It was obvious he was the best-qualified candidate," said Davis. "The only coaching advice he gave me after our first practice was, 'You've got a little defensive work to do' " . . . Larry Koretz, a 6-9 center from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who was heavily recruited by George Washington, has signed with La Salle.