Geno Auriemma may find himself answering plenty of questions this summer that aren’t related to the London Olympics.
Before the Connecticut women’s coach can guide the U.S. women’s national team in its quest to win a fifth consecutive gold medal, he’ll deal with a lawsuit from an NBA female security officer who alleges Aureimma sexually harassed her and later had her removed from her duties with USA Basketball, the New York Times reported Monday.
Kelley Hardwick, who served a security official for the team at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, says that Auriemma followed, grabbed and tried to forcibly kiss her at a hotel during a 2009 basketball tournament. Hardwick, 46, a former NYC undercover narcotics detective, rebuffed his advance and claims it cost her the position of top security official for the team.
In October 2009, the American basketball team played in an invitational tournament in Yekaterinburg, a Russian city more than 1,000 miles east of Moscow. After dinner, Ms. Hardwick and Ms. Shannon decided to talk in the lobby of the hotel and they saw Mr. Auriemma at the bar with assistant coaches and trainers, the women said.
Ms. Hardwick and Ms. Shannon took their drinks and sat in the lobby.
Mr. Auriemma soon walked over. “He invited himself and started talking about coming from an immigrant Italian background and saying he could relate to inner-city blacks,” Ms. Shannon recalled. “We were like ‘whatever.’”
A short time later, the two women excused themselves and headed upstairs to their rooms. Mr. Auriemma also walked toward the elevator, and got on with the two women. Ms. Shannon exited first. As Ms. Hardwick exited on another floor and walked to her room, she said, she sensed someone behind her.
“He puts his hand on my left arm and goes to kiss me,” Ms. Hardwick said, referring to Mr. Auriemma. “I grabbed his face and mushed him.”
She yelled at him, she said: “You better check yourself before you get hurt!”
Hardwick also alleges in the suit that she was paid less than male colleagues who had similar positions. But until she was removed as the security official, she wouldn’t have pursued a lawsuit.
Auriemma told the paper that he “was unaware of the lawsuit” and had no comment. The NBA and USA Basketball also didn’t comment.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.