Jack Rohan said he gets a lot of questions about why, at age 58, he decided to resume coaching at Columbia more than 16 years after he stopped and eight seasons after the Lions last had a winning season.

But, he added, "I've also received a lot of I'm-glad-you're-back types of things from Pete Carril, Butch van Breda Kolff and people like that. They're glad I'm doing it, glad I'm back suffering with them."

Princeton's Carril and Hofstra's van Breda Kolff are among the few current coaches who can claim intimate knowledge of Rohan's exploits as Columbia's coach from 1961 to 1974. His overall record was 154-161, but from 1967 to 1970, his teams -- led by eventual NBA forward Jim McMillian and eventual Rhodes Scholar guard Heywood Dotson -- had a combined 63-14 mark. In 1967-68, the Lions went 23-5, won the Ivy League championship, finished the season ranked sixth in the nation and advanced to the NCAA tournament East Region semifinals.

But family considerations and the toll exacted by student demonstrations prompted Rohan to resign as coach and become chairman of the physical education department. "It was a very trying time," he said.

He kept his hand in college basketball by being a radio and television commentator, and kept his hand in coaching by directing Columbia's golf team to 12 winning seasons from 1977 to 1989. Meanwhile, every time the basketball coaching job opened, Athletic Director Al Paul would ask Rohan first. Finally, with his children grown and Wally Halas having resigned last spring, Rohan decided to make a comeback while remaining physical education department chairman and one of its tenured professors.

The Lions, who were a combined 18-60 the last three seasons, are 2-5 this season, with two of the losses coming by a combined five points.

"They're doing better, even if it's not reflected in their record," Rohan said of his players. "I understand it's going to take a while, but I feel young and I'm enjoying it." McMillen Takes Exception

Congressman Tom McMillen (D-Md.) reacted angrily to comments made by Dick Schultz, executive director of the NCAA, in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post. Among other things, Schultz supported the stern penalties handed to the University of Maryland's basketball program by the NCAA Committee on Infractions for violations that included the sale of tickets for money that was distributed to players.

McMillen said yesterday that "the time has come for the power in intercollegiate athletics to be taken out of the hands of the NCAA and put into the hands of the university presidents."

He said the NCAA is "an organization that answers to no one" and said he can raise considerable support for federal legislation to limit the powers of the NCAA if the organization does not act decisively toward reform of its policies at its upcoming annual convention.

"My argument is not necessarily with Dick Schultz," said McMillen, who served on the Knight Commission, which is preparing its report on its study of the reforms needed in college athletics. "The NCAA is an organization that is congealed against reform. . . . I just find it ironic that {Schultz} would make comments condemning the sale of tickets by kids who don't have any money, who aren't allowed to hold a job and who aren't allowed to receive any kind of stipend."

Welcome Guest at Colorado

Colorado, which already has won two consecutive road games for the first time since 1982-83, is led by two of the nation's best unknown players: 6-foot-10 senior center Shaun Vandiver (22.4 points, 14.1 rebounds per game) and 6-4 senior guard Stevie Wise (21 ppg). But the Buffaloes' secret weapon is 6-5, 240-pound Rodell "House" Guest.

Although House (and he greatly prefers House to Rodell) had never played organized tackle football, he made Colorado's football team as a linebacker and played until basketball practice began. In last weekend's Mile High Classic, he made 12 consecutive shots, tying Vandiver's school record. His basketball career will end this spring, but because he is a fourth-year senior, he plans to return for football next fall . . .

Under NCAA rules, Providence's starting point guard Corey Floyd and top reserves Kenny McDonald and Marvin Saddler had to be suspended for Tuesday night's game against Boston College because they were involved in a fight on Saturday against Rhode Island. But Providence took things a step further. The school added two games to the players' suspensions, meaning they will miss the Friars' games Dec. 21 against Manhattan and Dec. 23 at fourth-ranked Arizona.

"People would say big deal if they missed the Manhattan game," said Coach Rick Barnes, whose team lost to the Eagles. "We had to make a statement and I think we did."