John Nash brought a button-down style to the Washington Bullets yesterday, formally accepting their general manager position and signing a three-year contract. Financial terms were not disclosed; Nash made $150,000 per year with the Philadelphia 76ers before leaving earlier this month.

With his wife, Ann, nearby, Nash completed a whirlwind five days of negotiations with Washington management by meeting with the coaching staff all yesterday morning before an afternoon news conference. Since neither the 76ers nor the Bullets have a first-round pick in next week's college draft, Nash and the coaches found they were basically considering the same players to take in the second round.

That was their first break. But the reality of improving a 31-51 team with no marquee names and players of limited trade value is daunting, though Nash put a positive spin on it yesterday.

"I don't know that it's going to be all that long and arduous a task to turn it around," he said. "After analyzing, for a very brief period of time, my instincts took over."

Club owner Abe Pollin said, and Nash concurred, that Nash would have autonomy in basketball decisions. In Philadelphia, Nash was a "full-service" general manager who also had to handle the team's business operations.

Here, he will only have to handle basketball, and presumably won't have to address feasibility studies of building a new arena, or why Capital Centre isn't filled every night.

"The fact remains that {Coach} Wes {Unseld} and I agreed today that we would have meaningful dialogue back and forth, and {assistants} Bill Blair and Jeff Bzdelik will be part of it," Nash said. "But the ultimate responsibility is going to be mine. This organization, in the area of player personnel, what develops is going to be my responsibility and I'm going to be judged accordingly."

Thus, Nash's hiring puts to rest rumors that Unseld was seeking to move from coach to general manager.

"You are assuming things that have been attributed to me that I didn't say or do," Unseld said after the news conference. "I never thought that {former general manager} Bob Ferry would be anything but the general manager of the Bullets. I never looked at being general manager, nor did I look at coach" before accepting the position.

Said Pollin: "If these two men disagree, then I guess it will be up to me to make the final determination. When the time comes that I can't do that, then I'll have to leave my chair . . .

"John is the general manager. Wes will report to John. John knows, and Wes knows, that Wes and I have a very close relationship, always have, always will, and will continue to have a relationship. There's nothing hidden. We've put all our cards on the table."

Nash had little to say about 76ers owner Harold Katz, calling him "a very, very involved owner." Katz's occasional meddling has been a sore spot for management and players alike in Philadelphia; Katz didn't attend Nash's news conference in Philadelphia when he announced his resignation.

Whether or not Katz made the call on some of the trades Philadelphia made in the last few seasons, there is no question that Nash left the 76ers better off than when he took the job. He gave up Everette Stephens, Ben Coleman, Charles Smith, Maurice Cheeks, David Wingate and several draft picks and wound up with Johnny Dawkins, Hersey Hawkins, Mike Gminski, Ron Anderson, Rick Mahorn and Derek Smith.

The Bullets don't have those kinds of players to deal, which is why there's little time for Nash to get his feet wet.

During the morning meeting "we discussed our personnel," Unseld said. "It's not very hard to figure out where we need to go."

"I don't think it's all that difficult to analyze this team," Nash said. "There are some very good players on this team. The fact that Charles Jones needs some help at the center position is an obvious fact."

The 43-year-old Nash brings a history full of recent trades for the 76ers that improved the club from 36 to 53 victories in two seasons. He said he had no single philosophy on how to improve Washington; as far as possible trades go, he said, no one is untouchable.

He will look at Washington's scouting system but wasn't ready yesterday to give a thumbs up or down on its effectiveness. He did say that he has an extensive network in Europe with which to beef up Washington's presence there.

"I think it's valuable if there's someone there fulltime, who's able to give input," he said. "I don't know that you need to hire a full-time scout and put him in Europe. There are enough quality people there, who are there by their choosing and their profession, who would be willing to give you the benefit of their knowledge without compensating them fulltime."

Concerning free agency, Nash acknowledged he had questions for Pollin regarding the club's purse strings, but was satisfied that the club can be competitive in going after players.

Nash has been very much in demand since leaving the 76ers. He auditioned for one of NBC's "Insiders" jobs on its telecasts of NBA games next season. He was mentioned as a possible representative for LaSalle's Lionel Simmons, expected to be a lottery pick in the draft.

And there was the Denver job. He said he was "very close" to accepting the Nuggets' general manager position last week, but Pollin phoned him a day before he was scheduled to fly to Denver to talk with Nuggets' management.

During a two-hour meeting at Pollin's home Wednesday, "in one short setting, I became convinced that this was a much, much more attractive situation for me," he said.

"That's not to cast any negative shadow on the Denver Nuggets, but {he took the job} for a lot of reasons, most importantly the ownership, the reputation of the organization, the coach, his staff, the proximity, and the players themselves."

The proximity to Philadelphia probably did more for his wife, "more than it did me," he said. "The organization attracted me, and the owner's commitment."

Pollin said that though he approached and was approached by other candidates informally, it only took a few phone calls around the league to decide Nash was his man.

"If I couldn't get the man I wanted," Pollin said, "we would have taken our time. If I could get the man I wanted, with the draft coming up . . . many, if not most of the trades, are made the night before the draft. We've made trades in the middle of the draft. Having somebody on board who's scouted all the players and knows the league and has an opportunity to make a trade, I want him here as soon as possible."