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Coach of U.S. women's basketball team sued by security official

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 19, 2012 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Coach Geno Auriemma says the allegations are
Coach Geno Auriemma says the allegations are "beyond false."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kelley Hardwick, 46, filed a lawsuit on Monday in state Supreme Court in Manhattan
  • She alleges Auriemma followed her to her hotel room and tried to kiss her in 2009
  • After he was rebuffed, he demanded that she be removed from her assignment, the lawsuit says
  • Auriemma calls the allegations "beyond false," pledging to defend himself "to the fullest"

New York (CNN) -- A lawsuit claims that the head coach of the U.S. women's basketball team successfully demanded that a female security director be removed from her assignment for the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London after she rebuffed his sexual advances.

Kelley Hardwick, 46, filed the employment discrimination lawsuit Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging that coach Geno Auriemma followed her to her hotel room, grabbed her arm and tried to kiss her during a 2009 tournament trip to Russia with the women's senior national team.

Auriemma called the allegations "beyond false," pledging to defend himself "to the fullest," in a statement to CNN.

"I'm confident that the truth will ultimately prevail," he said in the statement delivered by USA Basketball. "In the meantime, I remain focused on representing the United States this summer and getting our team ready to compete for the gold medal."

Hardwick, a former New York City detective and law school graduate, said she pushed the coach away and reported the incident, but said nothing was done, according to the lawsuit.

"What are you doing?" the lawsuit says Hardwick yelled at Auriemma during the alleged encounter. "You better check yourself before you get hurt!"

"After being rebuffed (Auriemma) red-faced, turned and walked quickly back in the direction of the elevators," according to the lawsuit.

Later, she said Auriemma began to "act vindictively towards her" and demanded that the National Basketball Association relieve her of her travel assignments with the squad, according to the lawsuit.

She was ultimately told in March that she would not be overseeing security during this summer's Olympics, the lawsuit said.

"Having received no prior complaints regarding performance of her (USA Basketball) related duties, (Hardwick) was convinced ... Auriemma had exercised his influence through USAB and the NBA to retaliate against her for rejecting his prior sexual advance and causing him embarrassment and discomfort with her continued presence," the lawsuit said.

Auriemma, 58, told The New York Times that prior to reviewing media reports, he had been "unaware of this lawsuit."

Hardwick further alleges in the suit that she has been routinely discriminated against by the NBA, claiming she was denied promotions and raises because she is a woman, despite an extensive resume of experience, including working as a security official for the U.S. Olympic teams that competed in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008.

"It's baffling why she, a trained and experienced security director, would be removed from this assignment with two Olympics under her belt," said Hardwick's attorney, Randolph McLaughlin.

The NBA , which was also named in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment on the allegations.

Ron Howard, a spokesman for the Women's National Basketball Association, said his office does "not comment on pending legal matters."

As it is our policy not to discuss pending legal matters, we will have no further comment while this case is active."

USA Basketball said in a statement that "it is our policy not to discuss pending legal matters."

"We will have no further comment while this case is active," it said.

Auriemma, who is also head coach of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, is considered among the nation's top coaches, steering the Huskies to seven national titles over his 27 years with the team.

He was named coach of the U.S. national team in 2009, having been an assistant coach to the gold medalist 2000 team that competed in Sydney, Australia.

The University of Connecticut was not available for comment regarding the lawsuit.

CNN's Rose Arce, Kristina Sgueglia, Nina Ibarra and Khara Lewin contributed to this report.

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