Outside the chapel yesterday morning, a line of empty cars stretched nearly a half-mile. Fourteen television cameras were perched across the street. Eight motorcycles stood ready to snort into action for escort duty to the cemetery. As usual at Maryland, Len Bias had drawn a crowd.

Inside, Jesse Jackson and some others much closer to Bias were trying to comfort those who survive him. Jackson reminded the audience that Bias had been born in a year of turmoil, 1963, that he was four days old when a man brilliant in another way, John Kennedy, had been struck down in his prime.

Most of the 1,300 invited to the private service were too young to be mourning a contemporary, or to understand why he is gone.

"I'm basically from the same neighborhood," said Thurl Bailey, "and I know what kind of kid he was. He was what every mother would want a son to be."

Bailey had tried to coax his buddy to attend North Carolina State, but admitted Maryland was the obvious choice. Bias had grown up in Cole Field House.

In junior high school, Bias sold ice cream during Maryland games. Or used that as an entre'e. Many a time he could be seen plopped on his box near the Terrapins bench, mesmerized by the action. If not the best seat in the house, he had the coldest.

"So full of life," Ernie Graham said. "Fun to be with. His jokes were the best. Hard to believe they're carrying him away now. When he was in the eighth grade, he and a couple of the pallbearers used to come by and we'd walk around campus. Eat in the dining hall."

Those in basketball are as stunned by what happened to Bias as musicians would be by the sudden loss of a brilliant prodigy, or writers by the death of someone to whom unique insight had come easily and quickly.

He was that good.

You watched Bias and saw close to the rarest combination of power, grace and technique. He may well have been the greatest player ever in the Atlantic Coast Conference, although Michael Jordan and James Worthy did not have senior seasons.

In life, Bias made all-America; in death, he made the Congressional Record. Until four days ago, he stirred the imagination; he now poses questions perhaps impossible to answer.

Everybody close to Bias would like the mystery of his death to be buried with him.

"Whatever happened isn't going to bring him back," said Graham.

"Let him rest," said Bailey.

That won't happen, for shortly after his burial Bias attracted another crowd. This one was on the steps of the Prince George's County courthouse in Upper Marlboro.

The county's chief prosecutor, Arthur Marshall, had called a news conference. During it, he suggested matters will get quite a lot uglier. Possibly worse.

"Based on all of the information we have," he said, "cocaine was involved in the death of Len Bias." Marshall also talked about "so many unanswered questions" and how a grand jury was the proper way to get at the answers.

Same as in basketball, Bias being out of position at a critical time will have a sad impact on others. His teammates. His coach. His school.

"It's time the public takes a look at their university," Marshall said at one point.

Does Marshall believe the Terrapins have had a drug problem for some time?

"I'm saying there may well have been," he said.

Coach Lefty Driesell will be summoned, Marshall said. If the coach just happened to appear on the courthouse steps, what would Marshall's first question be?

"Why did everybody disappear immediately from the hospital after Bias was pronounced dead ?" Marshall said. "Why did they go to his Driesell's home?"

Driesell chose not to respond immediately, saying, "I'm not speaking to all that stuff."

Last night, Bias attracted yet another crowd. More friends and admirers came to a public tribute at Cole, to remember and to wonder.

We all blow it once in a while. Sometimes the mistake is a beaut. But most of us at least get another chance upcourt to rectify it. Maybe what made Bias special as an athlete also made him vulnerable. He could beat nearly everybody he'd ever met at basketball. What might be the harm with cocaine?

"You never think about what could happen," someone who is much smaller than Bias and has experimented with drugs said.

She paused.

"I'll think about it now."

At the public tribute last night, Jackson said, "Tonight, the children mourn. I hope they learn. . . . If Lenny was vulnerable, all of us must beware."

The crowd of about 11,000 was more than Maryland drew for six home games last season. Jackson reminded those present that a player should be remembered for his entire career rather than his last shot, and that a man should be judged for his life rather than his final act.

Nervous before games, Driesell said he would approach Bias and ask, "Are you ready?"

The coach said Bias always replied, "I was born ready."

"The games we play don't rival the experience I saw here this evening," Athletic Director Dick Dull said.

Shortly, some youngsters resumed the more familiar function of Cole, something Bias surely would have appreciated. They started throwing a ball through a hoop.

My last memory of Bias was a few minutes after his final game for Maryland. He had played exceptionally against Nevada-Las Vegas that night, but the Terrapins had lost.

Bias held a towel over his head in those special hands and cried. For an exceptional amount of time, he could not be moved, either to speech or to the shower.

It will be impossible to enter Cole Field House without seeing Bias. Bias triggers memories of Chris Patton. And with Patton comes the vision of Owen Brown. Many gyms are filled with banners. Maryland's is eerily crowded with ghosts.