The new kid on the local athletic block, 42-year-old Lew Perkins of Maryland, is learning what got hammered home to others long ago. John Thompson will not move on anything until he is good and ready -- and until it suits his agenda for Georgetown basketball.

Maryland's athletic director asked the question last week that many of us consider publicly about twice a year: why don't the Terrapins and Hoyas get together for a game?

It seems a proposition with a simple enough solution. Georgetown's turf, the Capital Centre, one year; Maryland's Cole Field House the next. Or the Convention Center, if everybody wants to be neutral.

The idea surely is more worthy of the schools than, say, Winthrop College and East Carolina (Maryland) and St. Leo and VMI (Georgetown).

Trouble is, the coach at each school has asked a relevant -- and annoying -- question since the schools last met, 1979: what's in it for me? And nothing gets done. Sadly, the Big M local game for the Hoyas this season will be Maryland-Baltimore County tonight.

The coach with the most to lose by Georgetown playing Maryland would be Thompson, he being not only the major force in the area but also (as U.S. Olympic coach) the country.

He is in the boardroom of amateur basketball, sometimes at the head of the table. Any list of Establishment coaches in America has him in some sort of top-five mix.

Only Thompson knows the extraordinary time and effort necessary to achieve that stature in basketball; some of us recall his wailing, when he was unknown beyond the Beltway, that the basketball pooh-bahs would not give him a game.

Now that the sneaker is on his large foot, he sometimes gets overly exorcised over offers such as Maryland's, treating them as issues that need summits instead of good intentions by reasonable people.

Thompson was honest about the matter. He could have told Perkins a game against Maryland would be impossible because it would match him against a friend, Bob Wade. That's the excuse he and Dean Smith use to avoid each other in the regular season.

Instead of typical so-sorry regrets to Perkins, Thompson sent a salvo: "I think Mr. Perkins needs to concern himself with the Maryland program . . . instead of trying to run our program. I don't want to go too far."

But he wasn't finished.

"The thing that bothers me about these new athletic directors is that they seem to be more capable of scheduling in the newspapers than they are in talking to me. Ninety percent of what I've read in the newspapers has never been brought to my attention."

Attention is a key word for Perkins. He seems to figure Maryland needs it away from the basketball court right now, as Wade quietly recruits the foundation for teams that will attract proper notice on their own. Jabbing giants always creates at least a minor stir.

Thompson is properly worried about too many significant nonleague games draining the Hoyas' mental tank for the Big East season and the NCAA postseason.

Easy, John. The first Georgetown-Maryland game would generate a major fuss. But the third one wouldn't, unless some compelling individual matchup caused it. The 11th would be even less stressful.

Once it was important to keep tabs on how teams from the old National Football League did when they played teams from the upstart American Football League after their merger. Who cares much anymore? Familiarity sometimes breeds maturity; most games don't get treated as wars, except by coaches.

Thompson's foot-stomping stance to the contrary, there are two reasons for the area to have hope about the Hoyas and Terrapins meeting rather soon in the regular season: Brian Williams and Alonzo Mourning.

We are just getting acquainted with Williams, the exceptional Maryland freshman center; we are being asked by a few national seers to genuflect in advance for Mourning, the high-school phenom recently signed to a scholarship by Georgetown.

Let's dream. In two years, when Williams is a junior and Mourning a sophomore, maybe they will be dominant enough to inspire the ultimate matchmaker in sports -- television.

Hard as this may be to believe, television is even bigger than Thompson in college basketball. It gets his attention. It helped arrange the only college collision between Ralph Sampson and Patrick Ewing, and neither Virginia nor Georgetown seemed to suffer.

Thompson was not in an entirely negative mood. He also offered a challenge to the area's promotional minds. Find Georgetown a setting that would excite him, as well as the area, and he might very well include Maryland.

"Set up something like they did in Indiana {a one-day show in the Hoosier Dome two weekends ago that featured Kentucky-Indiana and Notre Dame-Louisville}," he said. "Get four good teams in here and get people banging at the door {for tickets}."

With Mourning, the Hoyas ought to be making serious runs at the NCAA title into the early-'90s. With Wade's obvious recruiting skills and with Williams, Maryland might be chasing Georgetown for national glory.

Thompson says he has to be "convinced to play." Maryland needs to get good enough on the court to become properly persuasive off it.