Bob Wussler, one of the Denver Nuggets' three owners, said last night John Thompson's decision whether he will leave Georgetown University for the NBA team is imminent. He said, "If not tonight, I'm sure we'll hear from him tomorrow."

The tug of war for Thompson continued yesterday, with one Georgetown official hopeful Thompson would remain and Nuggets President Carl Scheer predicting Thompson would accept the Nuggets' $6 million-plus offer to become the team's general manager and part owner.

In a telephone interview from his Denver office, Scheer said that the 48-year-old Thompson, Georgetown's basketball coach for the past 18 seasons, has not informed Denver tri-owner and managing general partner Peter Bynoe of "any indication {of how he's leaning}, except I think he'll take it."

Asked what led him to believe that, Scheer replied: "Nothing more than instinct, to be honest with you. It's just gut, because I don't know John really well."

One source who has been insisting for a week that Thompson is leaning strongly toward accepting the Denver offer said last night he had no reason to think that had changed.

Scheer said the only factors he believed would make Thompson reject the offer are Thompson's close ties to Washington, Georgetown and his players.

"John has a very attractive offer on the table that is all-encompassing for basketball," Scheer said. "It gives him a lot of authority in the basketball area and it's a very lucrative deal. What might keep him from taking that offer? I can't tell you. What I understand is an emotional tie to the players and the university."

Wussler said Thompson has been "up front about that from Day One" with the Denver owners. "He said he did not want to sever those 18-year-old ties lightly or without thought. We want to see that work out positively for John."

The loyalty and Thompson's lifetime ties to Washington are what Georgetown officials are counting on.

What the Nuggets are offering "is {Thompson's} lifetime dream, but what's holding him back is that John" feels strong ties to Washington, said a source who has known Thompson most of his life. "There's a conflict. He wants to go pro, but it's the internal conflict. His competitive juices want to get in the NBA. But his . . . instincts want to keep him here."

Thompson's age also may work in Georgetown's favor, the source suggested.

"He's nearing 50 years old. You're getting to the stage at which you want some stability. If this were 10 years ago, I think he would be gone by now. Those things are coming into play. . . . I think Georgetown's going to come up with something to close the gap. I only think it has to be minimal."

That is what Georgetown officials are counting on. "We feel as confident today as we did yesterday," said one who asked not to be indentified.

Thompson, who on Tuesday declined to say which way he was leaning, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

If Thompson wants to leave coaching, the same Georgetown source said the university has "a number of options" with which to counter Denver's offer, including administrative jobs that could interest Thompson. Those jobs could include a vice presidency, the source said.

But another high-level Georgetown official discounted that possibility because of the university's salary structure at that level. The source said there have been no discussions of university president Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan's cabinet on that issue. "If it was discussed, it was way behind the scenes," the source said.

As basketball coach, Thompson's annual income is more than $500,000, including a salary of more than $317,000 from the university, according to its latest IRS filing. A shoe contract with Nike reportedly is worth $200,000 annually.

Scheer said that all negotiations between the Nuggets and Thompson were concluded, and the Nuggets were waiting on Thompson.

"The t's aren't crossed and the i's aren't dotted," Scheer said, "but I would suggest substantive issues have been established."

He said the Nuggets were awaiting Thompson's decision before drawing up a contract.

Scheer also confirmed that Thompson's interest in the job was heightened when the Nuggets included the ownership possibility. He said the Nuggets had placed no deadline on Thompson's decision; Scheer confirmed Thompson has been discussing the position with Nuggets management for more than a month.

"John wants to get it done one way or the other as soon as possible, and so do we," he said. "I want to emphasize the ball is in his court."