INSIDER INSIGHT: Matt Santangelo

An inside look at Hoopfest from the Zags' veteran

As a former Gonzaga basketball star, Matt Santangelo already had basketball in his blood before becoming executive director of Hoopfest in 2014. Here he offers an inside look at the tournament and organization that puts it on.

1. Volunteers

It takes 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers to pull off the world's largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and it's not easy finding enough court monitors to volunteer, Santangelo says.

As an incentive, the monitors get decked out in Nike gear, including shoes, shorts, shirts and a hat. This year, the earlier you signed up to volunteer, the more chances you also had to win raffle prizes like a stay at the Davenport for the weekend, Uber rides to and from the courts, or a spa day to relax afterward.

Santangelo knows it's a big ask to get people to volunteer for the entire weekend.

"Without them this event doesn't even take place," he says.

2. Loser Kings

Because the tournament operates on brackets, there was a time when teams who lost their first two games wouldn't show up to play on Sunday, so organizers created a loser's bracket to entice teams to stick around, Santangelo says.

Whoever won that bracket was dubbed "Loser King," complete with a T-shirt to commemorate the title. However, after some people complained about using the word loser, it was dropped from the shirts... sort of.

"Ever since then, loser king has been hidden in the design of the shirt," Santangelo says.

One year you had to fold the shirt a certain way to spell out Loser King, he says. Another year, the shirts had a barcode you had to take to the store to scan and show Loser King on the register. This year it was morse code.

"Every year we come up with different ways of kind of hiding that so it's still the same message and it's fun, and it is literally the most coveted prize," Santangelo says.

3. Impacts

The nonprofit organization that runs Hoopfest is proud that the event has a more than $46 million economic impact on the region, which is huge, Santangelo says.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...