GREENSBORO, N.C. -- You know it's October, with plenty of time before the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season, when:
* North Carolina coach Dean Smith and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski are trading quips.
* Maryland's Gary Williams, arguably the most intense coach in college basketball, is seen smiling in public.
* Clemson's Cliff Ellis is asked to sing.
Such things could only happen at Operation Basketball, the ACC's annual preseason gathering of coaches, players and media.
Here, anything can be said, and usually is.
* Krzyzewski, after taking the podium to address reporters, on ACC expansion: "You can tell expansion has done a lot for the conference. We're in a smaller room and I had to wash dishes back there. You can imagine what would happen if we had a 10th team."
* Krzyzewski, when Smith entered from a back door to address the media: "Are you here to drive?" Then he added, "Dean had to wash the glasses and I had to do the dishes."
* Smith, referring to recent controversies regarding female reporters in locker rooms: "I want to announce that we'll have Carolina blue robes. We'll have one for travel that's a half robe and for home games, we'll have full robes."
* Williams, on whether this season, given Maryland's sanctions and defections, will be a challenge: "The biggest challenge I ever faced as a coach was when I coached the Lafayette soccer team, when I had never played soccer."
* Georgia Tech's Bobby Cremins, on a call he received from the mother of his new transfer center, Matt Geiger: "I got this phone call from a woman and she said, 'Hello, I'm Mrs. Geiger.' And I said, 'Yes. Did I go out with you once?' "
* Georgia Tech sophomore Kenny Anderson said he never let his mother come to watch him play at his Rego Park, N.Y., high school.
So, when Anderson, the nation's most heralded freshman last year, began to accumulate awards, his mother's reaction was different than he expected:
"She thought I was stealing trophies. When I let her come to the game once, she started yelling and screaming, so I never let her watch me. She thought I was just doing it as a hobby."
* Les Robinson, North Carolina State's new coach, had a bad day recently.
He heard on the radio that Duke had just signed a new recruit. A visiting reporter had just seen North Carolina's practice and told Robinson that the Tar Heels looked awesome.
Robinson's son, who is a student manager at Georgia Tech, called to say that the Yellow Jackets looked fantastic. All of this came on a day where he had to hold tryouts to get players who could scrimmage.
"I went to bed that night not feeling as good as when I got up."
* North Carolina senior Rick Fox, on fan reaction last season to the Tar Heels' first season in the last 20 where they failed to win 20 games in the regular season:
"We got some letters from people that didn't sign their names and you wish they did. It was almost like they had bet a lot of money on us and they lost it and they wanted it back."
And just think: They start playing non-conference games in two weeks.