Wes Unseld, a vice president for the Washington Bullets since his retirement as a player in 1981, will return to the basketball court as a full-time assistant coach at the urging of Coach Kevin Loughery.

The decision to coach represents a reversal for Unseld, who said yesterday, "When I retired, I had an opportunity to become an assistant coach right away. But I wanted, at that time, to prove to myself that I could successfully do something else. I hadn't even thought about {coaching} when Kevin first came to me about three or four weeks ago and asked if I would consider it. I was enjoying the administrative challenges and I had been very comfortable after taking a while to learn all the steps.

"There were a lot of things to look at," Unseld said. "But after talking it over with my family -- it took a lot of thought -- I figured I'd try it. It's what I know most about and I hope I can help."

Unseld's new assignment will last through the upcoming season. Unseld then will decide whether to continue as a coach or to return to his front-office duties.

Although he'll remain a vice president, Unseld will delegate his responsibilities and give up working as a commentator for Bullets broadcasts on WDCA-TV-20.

Unseld is replacing assistant Fred Carter, who left the club for a similar position with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Bullets' other assistant coach is Bill Blair.

Last season, Unseld worked with the team's big men on an individual basis during training camp.

Loughery said, "There is no doubt in my mind there is nobody more qualified to help us than Westley. When he worked with our big men last year, he was very, very good. He's going to work with the big men but he will also be involved in every phase of coaching -- game preparation, film review, everything.

"I feel delighted because I went to Wes with this idea a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to force the issue," Loughery said. "I know he's a family man and the life style would be tougher. But he was already traveling with the team as a broadcaster for 26 games a year."

Unseld was the Bullets' first-round draft choice in 1968 and was selected rookie of the year and the league's most valuable player after his first season, a honor he shares with only Wilt Chamberlain in NBA history. The 6-foot-7 Unseld started at center for most of his 13 NBA seasons, helped the Bullets to their only NBA championship (1978) and retired as the seventh leading rebounder in league history.

Unseld remains the Bullets' all-time leader in games played, rebounds, minutes played and assists.

"There's no better person for our younger players to be around day-to-day," Loughery said. "We're a pretty weak rebounding team and I know Wes can help in that area."