By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
It’s a job Robert Corn wanted.
Yet, it’s also a job he didn’t want to become available.
“It’s my alma mater,” Corn said. “I didn’t want the job to come open, but it was one of those circumstances that it happened it did come open.”
In March of 1989 Corn was hired as Missouri Southern’s fifth men’s basketball head coach. He succeeded Chuck Williams, the coach who Corn played for in 1977-78.
“I had been an assistant at UAB for 10 years,” Corn said. “I felt like I needed to branch out and spread my wings, so to speak. I was at the point in my career where I felt like I was ready for a head coaching job. The opportunity presented itself, and I was really fortunate to get it. I’ve always been appreciative of Coach (Jim) Frazier (MSSU athletics director at the time) and Dr. (Julio) Leon (MSSU president) for giving me that opportunity.
“I didn’t have any idea the job was coming open. I knew they had a couple of tough years, but it wasn’t one I was looking at and saying I wanted that job. I played for Chuck Williams. I always wanted Missouri Southern to do well.”
The new job was part of a whirlwind week for Corn. He and his wife Cindy came to Joplin for the introductory press conference during the same week that UAB was preparing to go to New York City for the NIT semifinals.
Corn was a co-captain on Williams’ 1977-78 team that finished 27-9, won the Central States Intercollegiate Conference and NAIA District 16 championships and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City.
The 27 victories and national tournament quarterfinal appearance stood as MSSU’s top men’s basketball accomplishments for 22 seasons.
Then in the 1999-2000 season — the first in the new Leggett & Platt Athletic Center — Coach Corn’s Lions posted a 30-3 record, won the MIAA and South Central Region titles and reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in Louisville.
There the Lions beat top-ranked Florida Southern 76-65 in the quarterfinals but lost to eventual champion Metro State 75-74 in the semifinals on a free throw after a loose-ball foul 75 feet from the basket with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Corn is in his 24th season at the helm of the Lions, guiding them to eight 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament berths, including the past two seasons. With 375 victories entering this season, he’s about to become the fourth winningest coach in MIAA history behind Missouri Western’s Tom Smith, Washburn’s Bob Chipman and Northwest Missouri State’s Steve Tappmeyer.
“When you take a job in today’s time, you never anticipate staying there as long as I’ve stayed at Missouri Southern,” Corn said. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to continue to work there.”