Geno Auriemma, UConn’s Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach and coach of the 2012 Olympic team, is being sued by a female security official from the National Basketball Association, according to a lawsuit filed in New York on Monday.
The security officer, Kelley Hardwick, 46, claimed in the suit that Auriemma “followed, grabbed and tried to forcibly kiss her” at a hotel during a basketball tournament in Yakaterinburg, Russia in 2009 when Auriemma was scouting for USA Basketball. The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, claims that Hardwick pushed him away.
According to the New York Times, which originally reported the story Monday, Hardwick and a female friend, Kelly Shannon, currently a police officer in Texas, finished dinner at a hotel and saw Auriemma in the bar having drinks with USA Basketball official, Carol Callan, and at least one of his assistants and other team officials. Hardwick decided to sit in the lobby with her guest.
Auriemma allegedly walked over and according to Hardwick’s friend, “Invited himself and started talking about coming from an immigrant Italian background and saying he could relate to inner-city blacks. We were like ‘whatever.’”
The two women soon headed upstairs to their rooms and Auriemma got on the elevator with the women. Shannon exited first; Hardwick soon after on another floor. As she walked to her room, she felt someone was following. That person allegedly was Auriemma.
“He puts his hand on my left arm and goes to kiss me,” Hardwick told the Times. “I grabbed his face and mushed him.” Hardwick then yelled “You better check yourself before you get hurt!” at Auriemma. At that point, Auriemma left for his room
Auriemma talked to the Courant Monday afternoon, but refused comment on the suit, saying he’d been asked by USA Basketball not to comment. He did issue a statement released through the university’s athletic department.
“I was unaware of this lawsuit until hearing about it through a media report today [Monday] and will therefore have no comment,” Auriemma said in the statement.
According to the suit, Auriemma allegedly retaliated for the rebuff by successfully demanding the NBA remove her as the top security official for the United States women’s team at the London Olympics. Hardwick served as a security official for the women’s team at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008.
A source indicated Monday that Hardwick is still employed by the NBA and has been re-assigned to Commissioner David Stern security detail for the London Games. NBA spokesman Tim Frank refused to confirm or deny that claim, saying the league does not comment on pending litigation. Hardwick’s attorney, Randolph McLaughlin, told the Courant that if she was added to Stern’s detail it had not been communicated to her.
Hardwick, a lawyer and a former New York City undercover narcotics detective, accuses Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball, which oversees the women’s Olympics team, of employment discrimination. She has provided a list of witnesses she claims are familiar with the encounter to the NBA in an effort to get back the assignment.
“I was willing to close this story in 2009,” Ms. Hardwick told the New York Times last week. “If Geno had not interfered with my job and my livelihood, I would not have filed this lawsuit.”
Hardwick claims the NBA did not investigate her claims after being informed of them and instead agreed, allegedly, with Aureimma’s insistence that she be removed from the women’s basketball detail.
In addition to suing Auriemma, she claims she’s a victim of the “corporate culture of gender discrimation” which has prevented her from being promoted during the course of her career. Hartwick’s career with NBA security began in November 2002 as a senior security manager but had difficulty attaining a better job or being compensated for additional work from the league.
“It’s our opinion that Mr. Auriemma took action in order to control and demean Ms. Hardwick,” McLaughlin told Fox Connecticut’s Laurie Perez.
He added that when Hardwick was informed she would not be retained by USA women’s basketball for the London Games, he suspected the reason was Auriemma’s influence with officials who made the decision.
Auriemma, who has won seven national championships in his 27-year career at Huskies coach, was named Olympic coach in the spring of 2009. He led the USA to the World Championship in the Czech Republic, an event Hardwick attended in the same capacity she has worked in 2004 and 2008.
“I don’t know Mr. Auriemma at all, but according to information we’ve obtained, he took steps to make her job more difficult [after the alleged incident]. … It’s an odd thing for a coach to demand that the security for the Olympic team be frankly compromised.”
Callan was not available for comment.
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