JEFFERSON CITY, TENN. – For Carson-Newman head coach Chuck Benson and assistant coach Shane Williams, Thursday night's exhibition against the University of Tennessee will have a familiar feel.
The Eagles' head and assistant coaches spent two seasons together on the Tennessee bench during the 1990's, when Williams was the Southeastern Conference's Ironman Award winner and Benson was an assistant coach for the Vols. Benson spent five seasons as an assistant at Tennessee.
Both return to Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night, only they'll be sitting on the opponent's bench. The Eagles face the Volunteers in exhibition action. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Benson was an assistant at Tennessee for two separate stints. He was on Wade Houston's staff for a season (1993-1994), followed by stints on Kevin O'Neill's staff (1994-1996) and Buzz Peterson's staff (2003-2005).
After growing up a Volunteer fan and spending five years on the UT staff, Benson will have mixed emotions when he takes the floor tomorrow night.
"I've not been in Thompson-Boling since I left (Tennessee)," Benson says. "I've certainly never set on the opposing bench there before. It's going to be a little bit different."
While on O'Neill's staff, Benson helped recruit a pair of Top 20 signing classes, one of which included Williams, a junior college guard and former Science Hill High School standout.
Williams would lead the Vols to an NIT appearance in his senior season. His 38.3 minutes played per game during his senior season are still a Tennessee record.
"It will be an exciting feeling just getting back into that place," says Williams. "The intensity that comes out when you enter a big-time setting like that gets you going."
Benson remembers vividly what Williams brought to a struggling Tennessee program in the early '90's, and hopes Vol fans too as well.
"This is going to be a neat thing for Shane Williams," Benson says. It'll be a return back home for him. Hopefully, the fans will acknowledge him for the toughness and grit he brought to the program, and for being a Volunteer."
Benson is looking forward to facing Tennessee, but is more eager to evaluate the second edition of his Eagles in their first game action.
"It'll be a great experience for our guys to be in the kind of environment," Benson adds. "It's an opportunity for us to look at our team and get an idea of where we're are. We're not going to look at it from a stand point of win or lose. It is purely an evaluation for us."
Carson-Newman faces a Tennessee team that will see its first game action under first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin.