Life is a speeding locomotive for Gary Williams. He is the first-year coach of Boston College now, after four years of stalking success and the sidelines at American University.

From one nest of Eagles to another, Williams hasn't changed one feather's worth. Still, he is a man with an immensity of intensity. Still, he is a coach who drills without frills and who, above all, wins: 13-3 overall, 4-2 in the Big East this season.

And still, he sometimes misplaces his drive: he still gets lost on high school recruiting trips.

"The streets in Boston are like the streets in Washington," says Williams, 37. "They each have three different names and go in three different directions, then disappear. So I have to stop at gas stations and ask for directions."

Only Gary Williams.

At 1 p.m. today at Capital Centre, Boston College will play No. 15 Georgetown (14-3, 5-1 in the Big East). When last seen here, Williams was in his standard fury, constructing a 72-42 record at American, yearning for recognition from somebody, anybody.

Now, he is in the Big East. "And right now," Williams says, "that's the place to be."

These are interesting times at Boston College. The point-shaving scandal is history. Only two seasons ago, the Eagles were 23-7, won the Big East and qualified for the final 16 in the NCAA tournament. Last year, they finished 22-10 and made it to the NCAA's final eight.

"We did some incredible things at the end of last year," says junior forward Martin Clark.

But the change of seasons brought other changes. Coach Tom Davis took his rigid ways and his .680 winning percentage to Stanford University. And junior guard John Bagley took his 22 points a game to the National Basketball Association. The Eagles had grown dependent on both.

"Last year, if 'Bags' didn't score 25 points per game, we wouldn't win," says junior center Jay Murphy.

"Bagley leaves and he's supposed to be a great player," says senior forward John Garris, BC's leading scorer this season at 19.3 points a game. "Then Coach Davis leaves and he's supposed to be a great coach. Now, we're on our own."

Which is where Williams fits in. He spent six years (1971-77) as an assistant to Davis at Lafayette (Pa.) College, then another year under Davis at Boston College, before going to American.

Williams is used to functioning with the bare essentials. He thrives on the idea of the challenge. His office at BC is small, the size of the painted lane in basketball. It is sparsely furnished and is lowlighted by a dying plant. "Too close to the heater, I suppose," Williams says.

At American there was no oncampus gym. "So when people here say our gym is so old and so small (capacity 4,400), I just say, 'We're lucky we have a gym,' " Williams says.

Clark says Boston College is lucky to have Williams. "He is someone we can talk to. Coach Davis was too distant . . . Coach Williams is friendly. Sometimes, he will explode, but he seems to do it at the right times."

The Eagles exploded Jan. 15, when they defeated St. John's, 68-64, denying the Redmen a chance to be No. 1 in the polls. Sophomore guard Michael Adams, the Eagles' play maker and dream maker of last season, scored 27 points. "The players really worked hard," says Williams. "That was the highest-ranked team any Boston College team had ever beaten."

"Coach Williams is trying to be humble about that game," says Clark. "You know that was a big win for him. Not every coach gets to beat a team that could be No. 1 in the country."

Williams says, "The key is getting these players to believe in you and themselves."

"Everybody is believing," says Garris, adding as proof, "Georgetown is good, but beatable."