Entering his 25th season as head coach at Missouri Southern, Robert Corn has guided the Lions to 20 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Postseason Tournament berths, 15 in a row, and four trips to the NCAA Division II Tournament, including two of the last three seasons in which the Lions have combined to go 61-28. He is a three-time MIAA Coach of the Year winner.
The 2012-13 season saw the Lions earn their 15th-straight trip to the MIAA Tournament, Corn's 20th overall, and pick up a road win in a first-round game at Emporia State. The Lions had two players named All-MIAA in Marquis Addison and Jordan Talbert and he moved his overall record at the school to 388-299 (.565). He enters the 2013-14 season just 12 wins shy of 400 in his career. He is fourth on the MIAA's all-time wins list and is second among active coaches.
The 2011-12 season was another successful one for Corn and the Lions. He had the MIAA Player of the Year for a second-straight season in Keane Thomann and the Lions had two representatives on the All-MIAA first team (Thomann and Jason Adams). Southern also finished the season ranked 23rd in Division II and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season.
The 2010-11 Lions proved to be one of the best teams Corn has coached at Southern. It featured the MIAA's Player and Defender of the Year in Skyler Bowlin, the league's Freshman of the Year (third in four seasons) in Marquis Addison, as well as first-team All-MIAA pick Jason Adams and third-team All-MIAA pick Keane Thomann. Those Lions went 26-5 and set a new MIAA single-season win mark with 19 en route to the school's second MIAA Title. The Lions went on to make it to the championship game of the MIAA Tournament in Kansas City, and the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament after Southern earned the No. 2 seed in the South Central Region Tournament at Central Oklahoma. Southern finished the season ranked 9th in Division II.
Bowlin etched his name into the record books at Southern and will go down as one of the best ever to wear a Lions' uniform. He was named to three different All-American teams, as well as being named first-team All-Region and the Region Player of the Year. He was the unanimous MIAA Player of the Year, as well as a repeat selection as the MIAA Defensive Player of the Year. He was a member of the MIAA's All-Defensive team all four times in his career, while being named All-MIAA in three seasons. He is the Lions' all-time leader in three pointers with 224, while his 1,664 career points rank him fourth all-time. His 568 assists and 265 steals rank 3rd & 2nd all-time and his free-throw percentage of .830 ranks second all-time.
The 2009-10 Lions started the season with six-straight victories and entered the MIAA Postseason Tournament as the No. 6 seed in which Southern dropped a close, hard-fought game to the eventual tournament champs, Nebraska-Omaha. The Lions had two players on the All-MIAA team as both Skyler Bowlin and Jason Adams were named second team, while Bowlin was named to the All-Defensive team and was picked as the MIAA's Defensive Player of the Year.
2008 saw plenty of success for Corn and the Lions. Southern started the season with a 12-0 record, the best ever start in the program's history, and vaulted to a number 10 national ranking. Corn also won his 300th career game and had the program's second-straight MIAA Freshman of the Year in Jason Adams. Southern went on to win 19 games advancing to its 11th straight MIAA Tournament appearance.
The 2007 Lions were another example of Corn's coaching ability as he took a team that was picked to finish last in the MIAA preseason poll and led them to a tie for third place in the league, a 17-11 record and was named the MIAA Coach of the Year. He produced a first-team All-MIAA selection in Vincent Ateba, honorable mention All-MIAA selections Octavius Hawkins and Tony Webb, the MIAA Freshman of the Year in Skyler Bowlin and All-Defensive team members in Bowlin and TJ Britton.
The 1999-00 Division II Bulletin National Coach of the Year, Corn is the winningest head coach in Lions basketball history.
Also named 1999-00 MIAA and NABC-Oldsmobile South Central Region Coach of the Year, Corn is the only head men's basketball coach Missouri Southern has known since joining the MIAA in 1989-90. He led his 1999-2000 Lions to their first MIAA regular season championship and also led Southern to its first NCAA Division II South Central Regional championship, and its inaugural trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
Corn was hired at Southern in March of 1989 and thus returned to his alma mater as the Lions' fifth head coach.
"I think any time you get to go back and be involved in the program for which you played, it is special," Corn says. "The fact that I had the opportunity to play on one of the best teams in school history has always been a source of pride for me. And then to be able to go on and win a conference championship and advance to the national playoffs while we've been coaching here makes the experience all the more meaningful.
"Now we are trying to build on the tradition at Missouri Southern and make this one of the premier programs in the MIAA and in NCAA Division II."
After his first two Southern teams went 12-15 and 11-17, respectively, Corn's next two squads posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns for only the second time in school history, finishing 21-8 in 1991-92 and 21-10 in 1992-93.
The 1992-93 squad was one of Southern's finest, as the Lions tied for second in the MIAA. They also won their inaugural league tournament title to earn Southern's first NCAA postseason berth.
Corn returned to his alma mater following 10 years as an assistant under one of the game's most respected coaches, Gene Bartow, at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Corn went to UAB as a graduate assistant in 1979, just one year after Bartow had been hired to start the Blazers' basketball program, and was later promoted to full-time assistant in 1981.
During his stint there, Corn helped UAB to a 217-110 record, two Sun Belt Conference titles, four league postseason tournament crowns and nine NCAA or NIT trips.
While at UAB, Corn spent nine summers coaching in Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League and won three league titles. He was also an assistant for the Puerto Rico National Team at the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.
A native of Benton, Ill., where he was twice a special mention prep all-state performer, Corn played basketball for two seasons at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), including one year under Bartow, before transferring to Missouri Southern. As a senior, he was co-captain of the 1977-78 squad that went 27-9 to capture both Central States Intercollegiate Conference and NAIA District 16 crowns and advance to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament.
Corn was honored for his athletic and academic efforts that year as he was named honorable mention All-CSIC and all-district, as well as Missouri Southern's outstanding physical education major. He received his bachelor's degree in 1978.
Upon graduation, Corn began his coaching career at Mountain Grove (Mo.) High School. He spent one season there as head basketball and assistant football and track & field coach before joining the staff at UAB, where he earned his master's degree in physical education in 1981.
In addition to his duties as head coach, Corn is an assistant professor of kinesiology at Southern. He is married to the former Cindy Little of Muscle Shoals, Ala. They have two sons, Rob and Scott Michael.
Of his coaching philosophy, Corn says he is not looking just for someone who can put the ball in the net or bring down 15 rebounds a night. Rather, he and his staff are looking for the complete student-athlete. In fact, under his guidance, Missouri Southern basketball players have graduated at a rate of 74 percent. Since he took over in 1989-90, of the 38 Lions basketball players who have reached their senior season, 29 have graduated.
"Whenever we go recruiting young men, we look at three categories," he says. "Number one, are they serious about academics? Do they want to earn a degree?
"Second, how will they fit into the community and the college? Are they going to be a good ambassador for Missouri Southern?
"And finally, are they going to be able to help us compete for the conference title? We know if they can help us do that, we can compete on the national level.
"So we're not just looking for great players. We are looking for great people. We're very proud of our school, and we want our players to share in that pride and to represent us well."
In the summer of 2006, Coach Corn was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame and Corn was recently elected in the spring of 2010 to the Joplin Area Sports Hall of Fame.