N.B.A. Official Claims Discrimination by Auriemma
The security director, Kelley Hardwick, said that she pushed him away, according to the suit filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
This year, the suit claims, Mr. Auriemma retaliated for the rebuff by successfully demanding that the N.B.A. remove her as the top security official for the United States women’s team at the London Olympics. She served as a security official for the women’s team at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008.
In the suit, Ms. Hardwick, 46, a law school graduate and a former New York City undercover narcotics detective, accused Mr. Auriemma, the N.B.A. and USA Basketball, which oversees the women’s Olympics team, of employment discrimination.
She provided a list of witnesses, who she said knew about the encounter with Mr. Auriemma, the longtime head coach for the University of Connecticut’s women’s team, to the N.B.A. this year, in an attempt to retain her Olympic assignment, she said in the suit. But the league’s general counsel did not talk to these people or to Mr. Auriemma, she said.
“I was willing to close this story in 2009,” Ms. Hardwick said in an interview last week. “If Geno had not interfered with my job and my livelihood, I would not have filed this lawsuit.”
Strong-willed and self-consciously larger than life, Mr. Auriemma is a legend in women’s basketball. He coached Connecticut to seven national championships and a record-breaking streak of 89 consecutive wins. Six of the 12 members on the roster for the Olympic women’s team played for the Huskies, the largest number of players from one school.
Mr. Auriemma, in an e-mail statement on Monday, said, “I was unaware of this lawsuit until hearing about it in media reports today and therefore will have no comment.”
The N.B.A., through a spokesman, Tim Frank, declined to comment on the lawsuit. USA Basketball did not return several calls for comment.
Ms. Hardwick’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of charges involving sexual harassment that have become a legal headache for the N.B.A.
Last December, a veteran security official, Warren Glover, sued the organization, charging that top officials had ignored his complaints that female employees had been sexually harassed and discriminated against. His suit is continuing.
A year earlier, Bernard Tolbert, the league’s former senior vice president for security, left the N.B.A. after settling a sexual harassment lawsuit. And in 2007, the Knicks paid $11.5 million to a former executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, to settle a sexual harassment case against the team and its former coach, Isiah Thomas.
Ms. Hardwick said in her lawsuit that she was paid less than male colleagues with similar titles and less experience, and that she has “slammed” hard against the league’s “glass ceiling.”
But her lawyer, Randolph M. McLaughlin, of the firm Newman Ferrara, said Ms. Hardwick had been reluctant to pursue a legal claim.
“If Geno hadn’t tried to send a message of control by reaching into her company,” he said, “she would not have filed this.”
Ms. Hardwick, in an hourlong interview, provided a detailed account of the 2009 incident in Russia, much of which is described in her lawsuit. Rachel Shannon, another N.B.A. security official and a current police officer in a Texas city, also accompanied the women’s team on that trip; she supported Ms. Hardwick’s account.
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 saw Mr. Auriemma at the bar of the hotel with assistant coaches and trainers, the women said.
Ms. Hardwick and Ms. Shannon sat in the lobby.
Howard Beck and Elizabeth A. Harris contributed reporting.