As retirement celebrations go, they don’t get much bigger.
Having stepped out onto the basketball court in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center to resounding applause from those in attendance on Saturday, Rob Corn then looked to the video scoreboard above.
A montage of former Lions players congratulated him on his 21 years as the team’s waterboy, concluding with Bill Self, head basketball coach at the University of Kansas, and Robert Corn – his father and the winningest coach in the history of MSSU’s basketball program.
Saturday’s game vs. Northwest Missouri marked Rob’s final game on the bench with the team, his family having made the move to Cartersville, Ga. In addition to the recognition before the start of the men’s game, a reception was held for family, friends and former players in the North End Zone facility.
“This is very special,” said Robert Corn. “We’re appreciative of Coach (Jeff) Boschee for making this possible. He came up with the idea to recognize Rob for his 21 years as waterboy.”
Rob’s presence on the bench alongside his father and later Boschee was something that just developed naturally, his father said.
“Whenever he was little, Rob would come sit on the bench with me during warmups, and then go sit in the stands with Cindy during the game,” he said. “As time went on, we could tell he really enjoyed being a part of it, so when he was old enough, that’s what we did.”
Anytime he was joined on the bench with Rob (and later his son, Scott, as well) was special, but the first year definitely stands out, he said. The Lions won the MIAA regular season championship, as well as its first NCAA Division II South Central Regional championship.
“It’s ironic that the first year (he was with us) was the 1999-2000 season, when we went 30-3,” he said.
“But the thing about Rob is, no matter what the outcome of the game, you knew you were going to get a hug from him. If we won, he was excited. If we lost, he was disappointed, but he knew how much the players and coaching staff put into it. He was always there, either as a boost or to help celebrate.”
His final game was filled with scenes familiar to Lions fans: Joining the coaching staff for a pregame handshake with officials; sitting on the bench cheering on the team and getting water to those who needed it; and joining the line to shake hands with the opposing players and coaches at the conclusion.
As supporters gathered in the NEZ for the reception following the game, Rob Corn made his way through the crowd with hugs, high fives or handshakes for nearly everyone.
“It was fun, but sad,” he said of his final game.
Boschee said it meant “everything” to be able to help organize the sendoff for Rob.
“The fact that he was here for 21 years, and he and his dad being the face of the program for as long as they were, I just wanted to send him off the right way,” he said.