Coaches detail past problems

By Jim Wozniak

Although NIU men’s basketball player John Culbertson’s collegiate coaches said they are unaware of his active warrant, two former assistants said they had problems with him during their two years together.

Culbertson is the subject of a warrant in connection with a May 9, 1984, shooting in Ames, Iowa. The complaint and affadavit state Culbertson fired a gun at another car and the charge is terrorism.

Jay Williams, now a coach at Minnesota, said, “John’s a very difficult man to deal with. He’s got an opinion of his own. It was a continual battle with him about what (former NIU) Coach (John) McDougal wanted—punctuality on the court, at practice. It seemed like a day-to-day thing with him.”

Williams said he tried to stay away from Culbertson because he said he tends to overreact. But, he said Culbertson might have had trouble taking secondary status to Kenny Battle, who since has transferred to the University of Illinois-Champaign.

Dave Kaplan, who helps run a Chicago scouting service, said McDougal attempted to discipline Culbertson, but former Assistant Willie White would disagree and go to men’s Athletic Director Robert Brigham to prevent it. Brigham did not support McDougal, Kaplan said.

Brigham declined to comment about Kaplan’s statement. He said he did not know anything about Culbertson’s situation.

White could not be reached for comment.

“He (Culbertson) was just a real disruptive influence on the team,” Kaplan said. “He couldn’t handle criticism. He could be the sweetest guy in the world at times, but I don’t think he could shoot at anybody.”

NIU Coach Jim Rosborough said Sunday Culbertson has caused no problems since Rosborough came to the university in 1986. But during the summer, Rosborough said there were some problems with Culbertson last year which he would not tolerate in the future.

“From all the reports I’ve received, he’s shown himself well in the community,” he said. “Along with the other three seniors, he’s been a good leader.”

Williams said White was the assistant who recruited Culbertson. Williams said White never mentioned anything about a warrant for Culbertson, but White kept the staff informed about Culbertson while recruiting him. Williams said the Iowa State University coaching staff told him NIU would have its hands full.

Kaplan said he talked to Iowa State University Coach Johnny Orr over the phone and in person about Culbertson. He said McDougal did not intend to keep Culbertson if he was going to return for the 1986-87 season.

Orr said he remembers talking to police about an incident involving Culbertson, but he does not remember the details.

“I remember he had some problems, but not any warrant for his arrest,” Orr said. “John was a very mannerly, personable, likeable guy while he was here. He is kind of a moody, up-and-down guy.”

McDougal said he knew Culbertson had some problems but did not believe it would prevent him from attending NIU.