MANHATTAN (CN) – University of Connecticut basketball coach Geno Auriemma “stalked and battered” an NBA security official in Russia in 2009 on a trip with the U.S.A. Basketball team, then hurt her career after she rejected his advances, the woman claims in court.
Kelley D.F. Hardwick sued Auriemma, USA Basketball and the National Basketball Association in New York County Supreme Court.
Hardwick, 46, claims Auriemma “forcibly tried to kiss her” her during a tournament in Yekaterinburg, and the NBA and USA Basketball did not reprimand him.
“In October 2009, during a trip to Russia with the USAB [USA Basketball] women’s senior national team, defendant Auriemma stalked, assaulted and battered plaintiff by following her to her room, grabbing her about the arm and attempting to forcibly kiss her on the mouth. Such contact was offensive and unwanted by fortunately thwarted by plaintiff,” according to the 14-page complaint.
Hardwick claims that Auriemma initially approached her and a co-worker, both African-Americans, in a hotel lounge on Oct. 29, 2009.
“Defendant Auriemma stated that his parents were poor Italian immigrants, and that he did not grow up wealthy, and could ‘relate to inner city blacks.’ During the unwelcomed conversation, defendant Auriemma made a number of inappropriate comments that increasingly made plaintiff and [her co-worker] uncomfortable,” the complaint states.
The co-worker, who is not a party to the complaint, is identified in the lawsuit.
Hardwick claims that Auriemma followed the women into an elevator, then trailed Hardwick, a former detective with the New York City Police Department, to her room.
“As plaintiff put her key into the door, defendant Auriemma approached her from behind, took hold of her left arm, and, as she turned, he forcibly tried to kiss her on the mouth. Plaintiff was startled but, utilizing her training as a police officer and security professional, reacted quickly by shoving him away and stating, ‘What are you doing? You better check yourself before you get hurt!”
Auriemma, red-faced, quietly walked away, and “nervously avoided eye contact” with her the next day, Hardwick says. She claims he also called her “ghetto” and “Shaniqua” behind her back.
Hardwick claims she reported the assault to a supervisor, who “asked whether Auriemma had been drinking and stated, ‘Well, these things happen.'” She claims that “nothing was done” by any NBA managers to investigate the incident.
She claims that Auriemma then showed “vindictiveness” toward her on two subsequent trips, to Connecticut, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
“Auriemma continued his obvious avoidance of plaintiff but his apparent discomfort with her presence manifested as vindictiveness,” the complaint states. She claims that he complained when she cheered during games, and told USA Basketball’s executive director that he wanted her removed from an assignment to the 2012 Summer Games in London.
In response, on March 24, the NBA told Hardwick she would not oversee security in London, she says. In April, she says, the league said that the decision “had nothing to do with her complaint regarding Auriemma.”
Hardwick began working in the NBA’s security department in 2002 and now works as a director, the complaint states. She provided security during the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Auriemma is head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympics Women’s Basketball Team, the senior national women’s team and the University of Connecticut women’s basketball teams. He has guided the U Conn Huskies to seven national titles.
Hardwick seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and back pay for employment discrimination. She is represented by Randolph McLaughlin with Newman Ferrara.