Thursday June 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, recently named a director of Berkshire Bank, has denied allegations in a lawsuit filed in New York City that claims he "stalked, assaulted, and battered" a security official for the National Basketball Association in Russia three years ago.

Berkshire spokeswoman Lori Gazzillo declined to comment on whether the lawsuit’s allegations would affect Auriemma’s relationship with the bank.

"I can’t comment on that at all," Gazzillo said. "It’s a legal matter, and that’s something we can’t talk about."

Auriemma was appointed a director of Berkshire Hills Bancorp, the bank’s holding company, when Berkshire officially purchased the Hartford-based Conn ecticut Bank and Trust Company for $30 million on April 20. Auriemma had served in a similar capacity with CBT.

As of April, Berkshire had intended to enter into a marketing agreement with Auriemma whereby he would speak on the bank’s behalf.

According to the complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, NBA security officer Kelley Hard wick, 46, claims the 58-year-old Auriemma followed her to her room, grabbed her by the arm, and attempted to forcibly kiss her on the mouth at a Russian hotel in October 2009 while he was scouting for USA Basketball. Auriemma is also the coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team. In 2009, Hardwick was part of the security detail for Women’s National Basketball Asso ciation players who traveled with USA Basketball, according to the complaint.

In the complaint, Hardwick alleges that she reported the incident to her colleagues and superiors, but remained willing to continue in her travel assignment. But she claims that Auriemma, "apparently spurned by the rejection," demanded that the NBA relieve her of both her USAB travel assignment and her duties overseeing security for the U.S. Women’s team at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Formerly a detective in the New York City Police Department, Hardwick has been employed by the NBA since 2002, according to the complaint.

Hardwick claims that the NBA failed to do a "meaningful investigation" and replied with Auriemma’s request to have her removed from her USAB responsibilities.

In a statement issued through USA Basketball that was published in The Hartford Courant, Auriemma said "the claim is beyond false."

"I will defend myself to the fullest, and I’m confident that the truth will ultimately prevail," he said. "In the meantime, I remain focused on representing the United States this summer and getting our team ready to compete for the gold medal."

USA Basketball and the NBA are listed as co-defendants in the complaint.