‘It’s time to pass it on’: Matt Santangelo ready to hand the baton to Hoopfest’s next leader

SPOKANE, Wash. — A multi-million dollar event needs a new team captain. 

Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo announced Tuesday he is stepping down from the role after almost eight years. 

The event has been sidelined for the past two because of COVID and it has not been easy for the team to keep up with the changes. 

Santangelo said COVID played a part in his decision to leave, but it was not the catalyst. 

“Gratitude, pride and excitement for what’s coming for them and excitement for what’s coming for me,” he said. 

The former Gonzaga basketball player stayed in Spokane to be around the game he loves. He brought Sports Center and Kevin Durant to the Inland Northwest for Hoopfest, and helped launch Hooptown USA to keep the energy alive throughout the year. 

“As you start to reflect on the seven and a half years in this particular role, I’m very proud of what we accomplished while I was here,” Santangelo said. 

So, what’s next? Santangelo has found a new role in medical sales. He will help with the transition as Hoopfest finds its next leader and the organization is looking forward to next June. 

“Spokane is on fire for basketball and we’ll be ready next June,” said Rick Betts, Spokane Hoopfest Association Board Chair. 

The board says they have lost a few hundred thousand dollars from the pandemic, but sponsors and community support helped them stay afloat. 

“We’ll definitely financially be ready,” Betts said. 

The board and Santangelo are looking forward to seeing a new leader take the annual three-on-three tournament to even higher levels. 

“This job is so big. It’s so diverse. It’s so wonderful. It’s so vibrant, best job in Spokane, but you get to a point where you have done it all or taken it to the level that we can take it to or at least that I can take it,” Santangelo said. “It’s time to pass it on.”

Just because he is leaving the role doesn’t mean he’s completely leaving Hoopfest behind. 

Santangelo said he is excited to volunteer and be a court monitor in the years to come. 

READ: Hoopfest Executive Director Matt Santangelo announces departure

RELATED: Hoopfest canceled again due to COVID