In the first quarter of his first game as an NBA coach, Wes Unseld talked more than he had in the first quarter of his career as an NBA player. Mostly, he yelled: "Move it!"

By the third quarter last night, Unseld had loosened his tie; by the fourth quarter, he was comfortable enough to fuss a little with the officials.

And when his debut had ended, Unseld walked off the Capital Centre court in a way familiar to Bullets fans, as a sober-faced winner.

The secret to his success? Unseld laughed.

"Playing New Jersey."

Good or bad, Unseld knew his first experience as the Bullets' boss would be no more than that. Nearly everything he did was unique. Never had he so much as called time as a head coach beyond the level reached by perhaps half the men in the crowd of 6,173 -- kid's basketball.

At 1-0, Unseld only needs 937 victories to tie Red Auerbach.

Rarely, perhaps not since Dave Cowens as a player-coach with the Celtics in 1978-79, has anyone plopped into the NBA head-coaching fire with so little training. Or inclination.

"It {coaching} wasn't in my plans as a player," Unseld had said earlier yesterday. "I can't ever recall thinking that. Never."

Unseld surely could have ascended into coaching earlier if he'd wanted. No Bullet deserved the chance more. But when he walked off the court, after the 1981 season, Unseld meant to stay off.

"I was determined to to try and prove to myself that I was capable of doing something else," he said. "But I wasn't really sure I could do it. I didn't know if I had the discipline to read business forms. Or learn the other things {necessary to succeed in the business side of sport}.

"When Kevin asked me {to become his assistant before this season}, it took me a while to accept. Because I enjoyed what I was doing -- and saw some results."

The unforeseen events of the last 48 hours, Unseld said simply, "are something that happened." He still is baffled by the record and circumstances that got Loughery fired.

"I heard some of the {players} say on TV that rapport {with Loughery} wasn't that good," he said. "I told 'em when I first talked to 'em {Monday}: 'If you can't get along with Kevin, I don't see how in the hell you can get along with anybody.' "

What will Unseld bring to his new venture? He laughed.

"I haven't figured that out. I really haven't, because everything I thought of until Sunday I told Kevin. Maybe we should try this. Maybe we should do that.

"If anything {as head coach}, I'll be talking about the intangible type of things. Mental preparation. Little things that make you want to think about what you have to do. I think that's a big part of it. But how do you get guys to do that?"

One of the ways, he decided, was for each player to see opponents in his mind before seeing them on the court.

"My thing is I gave them a scouting report {after the shootaround yesterday}. I know it's not unique. But they've got it. It's in their hands.

"Lots of times, it wasn't discussed who you would play until you got here {a few hours before tipoff}. They know who they're gonna play right now. They know the tendencies {of the Net matched against them}. They've got that in their hands."

Unseld grew stern.

"No excuses," he said. "Athletes in general rationalize better than anybody. I know I did. I'm trying to eliminate some of the causes for rationalization.

"You either can play, and you know what {your opponent} is going to do. Or you can't. Lots of times you can't. Lots of guys out there are better than you. That's gonna happen."

Unseld the coach is almost impossible to predict, because many of the traits that made him so successful -- and endearing -- as a player might work against him now.

He was a self-starter, a leader by example. Most of the Bullets he now coaches do not even recall Unseld as a player, let alone his subtle but firm influence on teammates.

Last night, the players who seemed to benefit most from Unseld's elevation were Bernard King and Muggsy Bogues. Each played three-fourths of the game, with King scoring 27 points and Bogues collecting 12 assists.

The player who seemed most inspired was Moses Malone, who had 26 points and 17 rebounds and was the finisher on at least three fast breaks. With three straight three-point baskets, the Nets were not finished until rookie Dennis Hopson tripped near Unseld's feet and turned the ball over with 11 seconds remaining.

Owner Abe Pollin would be ecstatic if Unseld could have the instant impact as a coach he had as a player. His first year, Unseld was both rookie of the year and the NBA's most valuable player. Only Wilt Chamberlain matched that double.

There is no particular personality required to win grandly in pro basketball. Nice coaches have won; abrasive coaches have won. Coaches less involved in the technical aspects of basketball have whipped their more cerebral peers.

Unseld was asked what traits he might borrow from the coaches for whom he played. His response, quick and incisive, indicated he had given this considerable thought.

"From Dick {Motta}, it could be execution. He was a sticker for that. From Gene {Shue}, it would be defense. And conditioning.

"From K.C. {Jones}, it would be the way he handled people. I just thought he knew how to handle players better than anybody I know. From Kevin, intensity."

He paused.

"But intensity is part of personality, and I don't know if that's part of my makeup. Hollering and screaming. Jumping up and down. I don't see that that's me.

"If I did that {jumping up and down}, I'd probably crack the floor -- and they'd make me pay for it."