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Executive Director Matt Santangelo leaving Hoopfest

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 2, 2021

Matt Santangelo holds a photograph of himself and Michael Jordan at a Chicago basketball camp in 1997.  (DAN PELLE)
Matt Santangelo holds a photograph of himself and Michael Jordan at a Chicago basketball camp in 1997. (DAN PELLE)

Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo is leaving the organization for a job in the medical device sales industry.

Santangelo’s last official day is Nov. 30, but he is expected to remain in close consultation with the organization as it searches for a replacement. The process of hiring a new executive director already has begun, according to a news release issued by the Spokane Hoopfest Association on Tuesday.

Santangelo has been the basketball nonprofit’s leader for nearly eight years, most recently navigating it through the unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Hoopfest touts itself as the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world, but it was forced to cancel the previous two years due to the pandemic. Santangelo is optimistic Hoopfest will return in 2022.

“I feel really good about Hoopfest in June, and I also feel really good about the organization being able to transition. I’m completely committed personally to making sure that transition happens really smoothly and successfully,” Santangelo said.

With a change in leadership and the first expected tournament since 2019, Santangelo said this is the perfect opportunity “for the organization to do a little bit of a reset.”

Now, he’s taking on a new role as a territory business manager for the advanced surgery division of Baxter International, an international health care company.

“There’s lots of former Zags and teammates and athletes in that particular field, so it’s one that I was attracted to for various reasons,” Santangelo said.

Despite his departure, don’t expect to see a Hoopfest without the Santangelo family roaming the courts.

He’ll still be based in the Inland Northwest in his new position at Baxter, and he’s already committed to volunteering in future Hoopfests.

“Hoopfest is in such good hands … I knew that going into the decision, so it was just affirmed again after I was able to vocalize it,” Santangelo said, crediting board members and volunteers with quickly offering their support upon hearing the news.

Prior to 2020, highlights under Santangelo’s tenure included an appearance by NBA star Kevin Durant in 2017 and live coverage from ESPN’s SportsCenter in 2014.

Santangelo also lived through the hottest-ever Hoopfest, he noted, when a record heat wave landed in Spokane in 2015.

“We have been very privileged to have Matt as our Executive Director for the past seven-and-a-half years. He has done an outstanding job carrying on the tradition of Hoopfest and expanding our programs,” Spokane Hoopfest co-founder and Board Member Rick Betts said in a statement.

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