Proclaiming the 1990s a new era for Howard athletics, university president Franklyn G. Jenifer issued a friendly warning to the nation's basketball teams as he introduced his personal choice, Alfred "Butch" Beard, as the men's head coach at a news conference yesterday at Blackburn Center.

"He {Beard} understands the academic tradition here at Howard and is the kind of gentleman we believe will build a winning tradition and have some of the good teams and players looking over their shoulders because Howard will be breathing down their backs," Jenifer said. "I'm excited about this.

"Butch Beard brings a record of winning to our program. He was an all-America player, played on winning teams, has published a book about basketball and everyone I spoke to told me Butch Beard was the man for this job."

Beard, 43, has a multiyear contract. Details were not disclosed.

A teammate of Washington Bullets Coach Wes Unseld at Louisville and a first-round selection by Atlanta in the 1969 NBA draft, 6-foot-3 Beard played with the Hawks, Cleveland, Seattle, Golden State and the Knicks before retiring in 1979. He was an assistant coach with the Knicks for four years and with the Nets the past two seasons. He also worked as a broadcaster for the Knicks and Hawks.

"I haven't had the opportunity to become a head coach at any level and this is something new for me," he said. "I don't know what kind of a team I will have, but you'll see an exciting brand of basketball. You will watch the program grow before your very eyes. . . .

"The difference between the pro and college game is that you get the chance to teach in college and I'll enjoy that more than anything. I'm not that familiar with the college game so I'll make sure I'm surrounded with people who are."

Selecting someone with no college coaching experience is nothing new to Howard. Steve Wilson, a 10-year veteran of the NFL, was named head football coach before last season.

"I wasn't particularly searching for someone with professional experience," Jenifer said. "I was prepared to go with a college coach. I just wanted to find the best person possible and I was not concerned whether he had a job or not. I recruited Mr. Beard personally. I took a hard look at the three names recommended by the search committee and, although I thought the three people were very qualified I felt I wanted to expand the list. So I called around and asked who the best person available was."

The three finalists submitted to Jenifer were former Howard player and present Montgomery-Takoma Park coach Tyrone Hart, former NBA player and UCLA head coach Walt Hazzard and Ball State assistant coach Leonard Drake.

Jenifer said Beard would get two full-time assistant coaches, a graduate assistant and a secretary. A.B. Williamson, Howard's winningest coach before he was dimissed in April, had only one full-time assistant, no secretary and a limited recruiting budget.

Because of his involvement with the Nets and the NBA draft June 27th, Beard said he will not begin full-time duties until after July 4, but will start considering assistants.

Nets Coach Bill Fitch said Beard will be missed: "College coaching is something he's always wanted to do. He'll build a solid program at Howard. You can bet he'll win his share."