Dick Harter, the first head coach of the NBA expansion Charlotte Hornets, says he is eager to make the transition from assistant coach to being the man in charge.

"It's a lot easier to sit there as an assistant," said Harter, who has been an assistant coach of the Indiana Pacers for two years and was an assistant for three years before that at Detroit. "When you're head coach, losses are going to be much tougher and maybe the wins will be a little better."I have seen both sides. I think I can take the losses. I know I can take the wins."

Harter, 57, was named the Hornets' coach Thursday, ending a 17-month search that began even before Charlotte was awarded a franchise.

"I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to have this job. I`m excited about the opportunity to help the organization build a strong program in Charlotte," Harter said. "I like the people, the area and the challenge of building. I'm more excited than at any other point of my career.

"In my heart and in my mind, I will want to coach basketball as long as there's a ball, a court and guys willing to play. I love to coach. I've never wanted to do anything else."

Before becoming an NBA assistant, Harter had 18 years of head coaching experience in college. He compiled a 314-195 record at Rider, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Penn State from 1965 to 1983.

Harter was recommended to Hornets vice president Carl Scheer and owner George Shinn by Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh, a former guard at the University of North Carolina and later a Denver Nuggets head coach and assistant coach while Scheer was general manager there.

"For the past year, we have considered more than 20 qualified coaches and have taken into consideration not only their ability as a coach and teacher, but their ability to grow with a new franchise," Shinn said. "It wasn't easy but we have found our man.

"This is our most significant appointment to date and it is one that we scrutinized very carefully. We wanted a coach who is young at heart, has displayed the willingness and ability to work with young people and would have the patience to deal with the trials and tribulations that are associated with leading an expansion franchise in the formative years."

Harter said he was looking forward to the challenge of building a basketball team from scratch and was prepared for an early struggle.

"I think I'm realistic enough to know that's probably the way it's going to be," he said. "I think it's very important that our players don't like that.

"It's also very important that they know it may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years, but some day we're going to have some fun beating people."