Lou Campanelli, for 13 years the basketball coach at James Madison University, yesterday signed a five-year contract as head coach at the University of California at Berkeley.

"I'm an emotional guy and I put my heart and soul into trying to get this job," he said.

He was one of several candidates for the job vacated by Dick Kuchen. Another prospect was Naval Academy Coach Paul Evans.

California's athletic director, Dave Maggard, said Campanelli, 46, was chosen for his ability to build a program quickly.

"He has a history of success and he's done an outstanding job of building James Madison from a Division II program to a Division I team," Maggard said.

"He's highly regarded by his colleagues and he's known as an innovator, especially on the defensive side. He has a thorough, complete grasp of the game."

Cal was 12-14 last season in the Pacific-10 Conference, and needs a rebuilding job.

In 13 seasons at James Madison, Campanelli was 238-118. He led the Dukes to berths in the NCAA Eastern Regionals in 1981, '82 and '83. They won their first-round games each time, over Georgetown in 1981, Ohio State in 1982 and West Virginia in 1983.

The Dukes, a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores, were 14-14 in the ECAC South this season, but never in Campanelli's tenure there did the school have a losing record.

Maggard said Campanelli also was selected for his ability to get the most out of his players when he has little to work with.

Because of its strict academic requirements, Cal often does not get the talent some other Pac-10 schools do.

"There aren't going to be many years when we are going to out-talent people," Maggard said.

"We want to rely on someone who is an outstanding teacher of the game. Lou Campanelli will do that."

Rollie Massimino, coach of the NCAA champion Villanova Wildcats, called Maggard to recommend Campanelli for the Cal job. Campanelli's coaching career began as an assistant to Massimino in high school basketball.

"Cal has hired a great, great coach," Massimino said. "Louie has beaten the best with mediocre-plus talent. He's a tremendous teacher and an innovator on the court. He'll win at Cal, I promise you that."

Campanelli said, "I'm a guy who likes challenges. The Cal program has been on the verge of having a good team and we're hoping to take that next giant step . . .

"You can't win at a school that doesn't have a strong commitment to the basketball program, and I'm convinced that Cal has that commitment from the administration and the athletic department. I can't wait to get started."