Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, responding to allegations of sexual discrimination by a former associate athletic director at the University of Saint Joseph where he now works, issued a statement to the Hartford Courant on Saturday in which he said that he “at no time, knowingly treated any woman unfairly because of her gender” and has “never treated any woman inappropriately.”
Jaclyn Piscitelli filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court against the small Catholic school in West Hartford, Connecticut, which began admitting men in 2018. She alleges violations of Title IX, the federal law designed to ensure equal opportunities for women and girls in education, including athletics.
Piscitelli’s attorneys say she was fired in June after complaining about the conduct of men in the athletic department, including the 77-year-old Calhoun, whom she alleges helped turn the department into “a boys club” after he was hired to form and coach the school’s men’s basketball team.
Calhoun, who did not agree to an interview with the Courant, wrote that he was “stunned and saddened” to read what he called “inflated and misleading headlines.”
Piscitelli alleges, among other things, that the former UConn coach once called her “hot” and forced her to perform menial tasks, including opening the door to Calhoun’s office for him, even when he had the keys.
“There was an instance in which Calhoun knocked a number of single-serve coffee ‘K-cups’ onto the floor and stepped on them, creating a mess of coffee grounds and packaging on the floor and made plaintiff clean them up, stating that if he made such a mess at home, his wife would clean up after him,” according to the lawsuit.
Responding to those allegations, Calhoun wrote in his statement, “I’m not sure when asking a colleague if they would mind opening the door because my hands were full became discrimination or when self-deprecation for being an aging, clumsy husband became an insult. And call me old-fashioned in this regard … I use the word ‘hot’ to describe the weather and the temperature of my morning coffee. And the only woman I openly compliment is my wife of 53 years and frankly, I call her ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’ … because she is.”
Calhoun said that he is “not without flaws” and referenced his “stubborn, demanding, and overly passionate” demeanor on the basketball court.
“I hold the people that work with me to a very high standard regardless of gender, race, or position. … I believe in treating people fairly and I’m extremely proud of my track record in this area,” he continued.
“I have made mistakes throughout my life and I know that I will continue to do so. However, I firmly and unequivocally, at no time, knowingly treated any woman unfairly because of her gender. In addition, let me be clear, I have never treated any woman inappropriately.”
Calhoun touted his having “stood in support for women’s rights and equality for all as long as I can remember,” and noted that he voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He also cited his work under former UConn president Susan Herbst, current University of Saint Joseph president Rhona Free and newly hired USJ athletic director Amanda Devitt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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