The Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament is taken very seriously by most everyone involved.
Players, coaches and alumni from the seven schools treat this event with clenched teeth. For many members of the press, this is war and peace.
But the students are a bit different.
Oh, they are deeply concerned with the outcome, but they also manage to have a bit of fun at the same time. And although each student body gets only 200 tickets -- alumni contributors to each school's athletic fund make up the majority of the crowd -- they make their presence here felt.
Consider the Virginia students. Several weeks ago the Cavaliers played North Carolina in Charlottesville and the students used a number of obscene cheers. Administration and alumni were shocked by the cheers and said so.
The Virginia students came to the tournament prepared. Before Virginia's opening round game Thursday with N.C. State, members of the pep band passed out a sheet with number coding for obscene cheers. For example: "901" might mean "Oh heck" or something a little more colorful. Several of the cheers mentioned Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell.
Thus, the students blithely chanted their numbers throughout the game as Virginia lost, 82-78, to State.
Afterward, Virginia Athletic Director Gene Corrigan was asked by a reporter if he had a comment on the game. "Yeah," he answered, "901, two, three and four."
The Most Superstitious Coach Award goes (for a fifth straight year) to Duke's Bill Foster. A year ago he reluctantly agreed to Athletic Director Tom Butters' request that his team stay in a Winston-Salem hotel large enough to also accommodate Duke boosters and alumni in addition to the team.
The hotel is almost 30 minutes from the Greensboro Coliseum, but Foster agreed to the setup. Duke won the tournament. The Blue Devils are back in Winston-Salem this year.
Foster wore an outfit last year that included a blue jacket and checked pants throughout postseason play as Duke swept the ACC Tournament and went on to the NCAA championship game.
This year the outfit was seen rarely. But when Duke played North Carolina for a share of the regular-season title last week, Foster was back in blue and checks. And in Greensboro? Blue and checks, what else?
North Carolina Coach Dean Smith has had more on his mind this weekend than the fortunes of his basketball team. Smith's wife, Linnea, was expecting the couple's first child at any minute as the tournament opened. Smith, 49, has three children by a previous marriage.
ACC tournament babies became legendary in 1976 when Virginia Coach Terry Holland left his wife home, expecting a baby. The sixth-seeded Cavaliers proceeded to stun the nation by winning the tournament.
"After this I'm going to keep my wife barefoot and pregnant the rest of her life," Holland said after accepting the winner's trophy.
Norman Sloan of N.C. State has always been known as the most blunt coach in the league. This weekend he proved why once again.
After his team defeated Virginia, Sloan launched into a diatribe against coaches who did not speak their minds.
"I've always tried to be honest with you guys," Sloan told the press. "I don't come up here with some prefabrication stuff and try to sound good. I tell you the truth. If it makes your job harder, I'm sorry."
Later, in a direct jab at his longtime rival, Dean Smith, Sloan explained what he would try to do the next night against Duke.
"I'll tell you one thing, we're not going to come out and do anything cute," he said. "You won't see any Wolf Pause (State's delay game) or 5 1/2 corners or anything fancy like that."
Finally after losing to Duke Friday, Sloan was asked if his plan had been to try and outquick Duke early with a small, fast lineup.
"Sure, our plan was to try and use our quickness," Sloan said. "But game plans never work out. Any coach who tells you his game plan worked is lying to you like a dog."
As usual, the ACC tournament produced its usual share of rumors. One had Duke's Bill Foster going to the New York Knicks. (False). Another had Clemson's Bill Foster going to any major school with an opening. (Possible, if the offer is right. Foster is frustrated at Clemson.)
Transfer rumors: Chris Brust, UNC freshman, to a New York school; John Hendler, Wake Forest reserve forward, anywhere. Also Duke guard John Harrell, who has another year of eligibility but can graduate in May, is likely to opt for a diploma now.
When Lefty Driesell refused to use his reserves in the dying moments of Carolina's semifinal romp, it meant that Eric Schrader, the team co-captain, finished his four-year career without ever having played one second in an ACC tournament.