As coach of the Bullis girls basketball team, Wayne Ferrell is at ease. Stepping out of his day uniform and into his coaching garb, Ferrell can escape the rigors of his full-time job as a Montgomery County police officer and concentrate on the less burdensome business of coaching.

"I really enjoy coaching," said Ferrell, who is in his first season at Bullis. "I've tried to bring the team together and I think we've really come together."

Ferrell's Bulldogs indeed have jelled, and were 19-0 until they ran into National Cathedral and lost, 64-56. Since then, they have picked up three more victories and a No. 8 ranking in The Washington Post.

But for Ferrell, a 15-year veteran of the force, basketball hardly provides as much satisfaction as helping drug-addicted children as part of the police department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE). The program is designed to raise young people's self-confidence and to teach them the ills of drug abuse.

"If I had to choose between coaching and DARE, I'd choose DARE," Ferrell said. "I'm teaching children not to use drugs. I help raise their self-esteem and confidence. When you see these tough streetwise kids having tears in their eyes . . . it really makes your chest hurt."

Ferrell's three-year association with DARE began after five years with the force's child abuse bureau. Before his work as a child abuse detective, he served seven years as a patrol officer.

"I asked to be transferred from child abuse because it was really depressing just doing child sexual abuse cases," Ferrell said. "There's really never a happy ending. The father never admits he's been {abusing the child} or the mother can't accept that her family has to be split up. It tends to eat at you."

There are aspects of the DARE program that Ferrell implements in coaching. And as his team's record indicates, they've been effective.

"There are a lot of times when I use the DARE concept in coaching," Ferrell said. "There might be another girl who might do better but sometimes it's better to keep another girl in {the game} for crucial situations if she's not really going to hurt you in order to raise her self-esteem."

Ferrell grew up in a predominantly black section of Rockville called Lincoln Park -- a neighborhood he remembers fondly -- and says that environment helped him as a police officer.

"The all-black Berlin Apartments {a complex in the vicinity of Lincoln Park} had a lot of problems and the police department applied the same concept to Lincoln Park," Ferrell said. "The communication was very poor up until 1978. I could just walk in after {the residents} told a white officer they saw nothing . . . and they would tell me everything. Now there's no longer the perception that the entire community is bad."

Ferrell's first coaching stint was with a Montgomery County boys league, in which he became an immediate success.

"I used to coach in the I-270 league," Ferrell said. "A lieutenant at the Germantown station asked me if I'd be willing to coach the Damascus boys team. Fortunately in our first two years we were runners-up in the championship."

Ferrell's success with the Damascus team led Joe Horwart, a police officer with two boys attending Bullis, to suggest Ferrell for the school's coaching job to Bullis Athletic Director Walt King.

The players have formed a bond with Ferrell without any residue from the initial uncertainty that follows the arrival of a new coach, especially one who doubles as a police officer.

"We're really focused on this season," said Kristina Lee after a 20-point performance in a victory over La Reine. "We just don't want to lose. Coach Ferrell has helped motivate us and bring us together as a team."

Ferrell's multifaceted career has allowed him little time for relaxation, though he has woven a patchwork schedule that allows him to be a father, a policeman and a coach all with minimal anxiety.

"It's tough sometimes to do all the things that I do," Ferrell said. "Some nights after I get off from work, I have to go to practice right away and then when I get home I have to take my son to basketball practice. But I enjoy doing all those things."