The last five digits of Rick Steltenpohl’s phone number spell HOOPS, an appropriate mnemonic.
Still a pick-up game regular, the 53-year-old was hoisting jumpers at Peaceful Valley Park on Tuesday, Hoopfest logos on its backboards in lieu of squares.
Steltenpohl was, after all, one of the pillars of the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
In 2014, Steltenpohl stepped down as Hoopfest’s executive director to start his own company, Eventuris, which has since coordinated 3-on-3 tournaments in major cities across the country.
His fervor for community-minded basketball remains the same.
Partnered with former Hoopfest projects manager Aaron Magner, Eventuris’ pursuits include: The Portland Trailblazers’ Rip City 3-on-3; PHX3on3 in Phoenix; Nike Basketball 3-on-3 in Los Angeles; and The Scottsdale Final 3, played on the same weekend as the 2017 Final Four in Phoenix.
“We enjoy planning and organizing these events and finding ways to improve the player and fan experience,” Steltenpohl said. “I wanted this to be on a national level and to be innovative.”
On-site digital brackets, user-friendly apps, rules modifications and paid referees have helped the Spokane-based business reach Steltenpohl’s goals.
“Rick and Aaron helped us create an event that had a quality level above and beyond anything that had been done here in the past,” Trailblazers vice president of brand strategy Dwayne Hankins wrote in a review of Eventuris. “It also made an impression with the local grassroots basketball associations, local media and Trail Blazers fans. This impression gives us a fantastic foundation from which to build this event going forward.”
The NBA also took notice.
Eventuris agreed to a contract to manage game play of the NBA 3X, an elite U.S. tour in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles and culminates with a national championship.
The rules for NBA 3X – the same FIBA rules that will be used in the 2020 Games in Tokyo – include 10-minute games, a 12-second shot clock and a no pass-in requirement on a checked ball, among others.
“We wanted to freshen things up and make it more fun,” he said. “It’s much quicker. There’s constant movement. It’s really a shooter’s game.”
The NBA developmental league has also hired Eventuris to manage their check-in procedure at its tryouts in Chicago.
This broad spectrum of business is what Steltenpohl had in mind three years ago when opting to leave Hoopfest. Magner stepped down from his Hoopfest post to join Steltenpohl the following day.
“The opportunity we thought was there was proven to be so,” Magner said. “And other things started coming our way.
Coordinating tournaments substantially smaller than Hoopfest has let Eventuris pay for tournament staffs and tinker with changes, helping improve the game play.
With a paid, qualified ref monitoring the action, Eventuris has implemented And-1 calls in all of its tournaments, an oddity in amateur 3-on-3 play.
“When you’re running smaller tournaments, you have a little more wiggle room to do things,” Steltenpohl’s. “Hoopfest has over 400 volunteer refs. There’s no way we could pay that many.”
Hoopfest will always be the gold standard for Steltenpohl, who helped spearhead the inaugural tournament in 1990.
“It’s an event that can’t be replicated,” he said. “From all of the volunteers, the board members, everyone that makes it happen. Nobody else has done what they have done, and there’s a reason for that.”
Magner, whose three childen played in Hoopfest this summer, agreed.
“An unbelievably heroic effort by so many people,” Magner said.