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Judge tosses discrimination suit against U.S. basketball coach

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York judge has dismissed a civil lawsuit against the coach of the champion University of Connecticut women's basketball team brought by a security official who accused him of grabbing her and trying to kiss her.

The official, Kelley Hardwick of New York, works for the National Basketball Association and sued Geno Auriemma, who coached the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team to a gold medal last year.

The suit also named U.S.A. Basketball, which oversees the Olympic program, and the NBA as defendants.

It said Auriemma grabbed Hardwick and tried to kiss her during a pre-Olympic trip to Russia with the national team.

When she rebuffed him, the lawsuit said, Auriemma had the NBA remove her from the Olympics security team in London. In a subsequent amended filing, Hardwick said the NBA reversed its decision as a result of the lawsuit and allowed her to travel to London, though with diminished responsibilities.

The amended complaint also included an unrelated assault claim against Auriemma, stemming from an alleged incident in which Hardwick said Auriemma screamed at her in front of the players while in London.

Auriemma, who won his eighth national championship with Connecticut this month, previously called all the allegations "beyond false."

Justice Cynthia Kern in state Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that the lawsuit, filed last summer, did not belong in New York because the alleged incidents took place in Russia and London. She also dismissed the claims against U.S.A. Basketball, in part because it is based in Colorado.

Hardwick's lawyer, Randy McLaughlin, said Auriemma's actions were intended to harm her career in New York, which gave her a basis to sue the coach there.

"We believe the decision is wrong on the facts and the law," he said. "This is just the beginning."

Court records show Hardwick's counsel have already filed notice that they will appeal Kern's ruling.

A university spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A U.S.A. Basketball representative could not be reached outside of regular business hours.

The decision, filed on Monday, did not address Hardwick's discrimination accusations against the NBA, based in New York, and her direct supervisor. An NBA spokesman declined to comment.

The case is Hardwick v Auriemma, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 153557/2012.

(Additional Reporting by Sakthi Prasad; Editing by Xavier Briand and Peter Cooney)

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