Hall of Fame Coach Jim Calhoun Denies Sex Bias Claims

Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun is denying allegations of sexual discrimination made by a former associate athletic director at the University of Saint Joseph, the Division III school where he now works.

Calhoun says in a statement released Saturday by the school that he never "knowingly treated any woman unfairly because of her gender" and he fully supports women's rights and equality.

Jaclyn Piscitelli sued the Catholic school in West Hartford in federal court Wednesday. She alleges she was fired after complaining about the conduct of men in the athletic department, including the 77-year-old Calhoun, who coaches the school's men's basketball team.

She alleges the former UConn coach once called her "hot" and forced her to clean up coffee grounds he spilled, among other things.

Diana Sousa, a school spokeswomen, has said the university doesn't comment on pending litigation but that it "takes compliance with all matters relating to Title IX very seriously."

Calhoun's full statement can be seen below:

"I was stunned and saddened to read the inflated and misleading headlines and the accusations directed at me this past Wednesday, and again in an editorial in Friday’s Hartford Courant, by an ex-USJ employee and an all-too-eager clickdriven media.

I am angry and hurt that the reputation that I’ve worked so hard to achieve for over 50 years – actually, for more than 77 years - was so easily dismissed and thrown aside in return for headlines or eyeballs or whatever the appropriate term is here. And I’m especially angry that my career and my name are being used for legal grandstanding instead of in support for the victims of discrimination.

While I am best known as a coach, I am first and foremost a husband, father, grandfather (to 5 granddaughters and 1 grandson), brother (to 4 sisters and 1 brother), and a son who was raised by a widowed mother. I am a proud Democrat. I was born a Boston Irishman and have lived in Connecticut for nearly 34 years. I voted for Hillary. I married a feminist. And I have stood in support for women’s rights and equality for all for as long as I can remember. I spent the last 8 years at UConn proudly working under a president who was a woman. I work under a visionary woman president today and I’m excited that the Athletic Department at USJ is under the direction of a newly-hired, talented woman.

I am not without flaws. I can be stubborn, demanding, and overly passionate 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 that hard work is the key to success and that there are no shortcuts to the top. I believe in treating people fairly and I’m extremely proud of my track record in this area. I have always believed that taking responsibility for one’s actions is a given, and I believe that leaders lead by example. 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.

I accepted the position at USJ not for money or additional fame. Frankly speaking, at 75 I didn’t need to work. But I was and continue to be motivated by the challenge of putting the university’s athletics on the “front porch” of what USJ represents as an institution. I believe fully in its mission. I believe in the power, energy, and optimism of young women and men. I believe that the decision by USJ’s Sisters of Mercy to become a fully coeducational institution wasn’t intended to change the nature of what USJ is, but rather, to add and expand to the richness of USJ and its mission to all women and men. I am overwhelmed by, and incredibly grateful for, the outpouring of support that I have received these past few days from the women I have worked with throughout my career.

Women who have known me - family, friends, peers, and coworkers from throughout my life - have expressed outrage at these false allegations and are unequivocally supportive of the person that I am. That means the world to me and I would like to say thank you. I have also had the good fortune to build a reputation beyond those who know me best. I have always been incredibly honored by that opportunity and I take that responsibility seriously. I have looked upon that as a chance to inspire people to stand up for those with no voice. I have done my best to pay it forward and I will continue to do so regardless of those who seek to benefit from my name or headline-grabbing notoriety. I will go on as a champion of cardiovascular disease, cancer, autism, UConn, USJ, Juvenile Diabetes, the Franciscan Life Center and other organizations who seek to help those who are less fortunate.

As for the accusations that have been reported, I will say only this - 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."

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