By Dylan Tehada
UPB alum Sara Anastasieska has begun a new chapter in her basketball career as she begins her stint as the Director of Basketball Operations at University of California, Santa Barbara. After a seven year collegiate basketball career, Anastasieska is focused on pursuing her dreams on the business side of basketball and continuing to make an impact on players who are passionate about the game.
After four months at UPB as a player development coach, UCSB hired Anastasieska as their new Director of Basketball Operations in May of 2023. Now two months into her new role, Anastasieska has been fully immersed in the team’s offseason preparation for the upcoming season. Her main task as Director of Basketball Operations is to coordinate administrative tasks for the team such as booking hotels and travel and also reminding the team of important dates and events off the court.
In addition to her administrative role, Anastasieska has put her collegiate basketball experience to use by helping coach the team and assisting in certain drills during practice. Anastasieska is embracing this additional coaching role and receiving a lot of support and guidance from the UCSB head coach, Bonnie Henrickson, as she aspires to pursue a long term career coaching women’s basketball at the collegiate level.
“One cool thing is that with the NCAA rule that passed recently, where you can have two extra people on the court during practice, I've kind of taken on that [coaching] role as well. End goal is being a head coach, and the head coach here knows that and has been having me on the court with the players,” Anastasieska said. “It's awesome to have that support, especially because she knows what I want to end up doing. Coach Bonnie is the type of coach and person who will do everything in her power to help those around her fulfill their goals.”
Scheduling and coordinating events for the team is no easy task as it takes months of planning and thinking ahead to make sure everything during the season goes smoothly. Anastasieska embraces the task of coordinating events and transitioning from being a collegiate athlete as both a challenge and something she enjoys about her job.
“It's a big transition. You depend on people when you're a college athlete, you depend on the Director of Ops to tell you this, that and the other, and now I'm the one doing these things… But once you do [coordinate events] successfully, and whatever you have planned for is a success, that's when it's exciting,” Anastasieska said.
Looking back on her collegiate career, Anastasieska believes pursuing her Master’s degrees and surrounding herself with a strong support system in the midst of injury riddled seasons prepared her for her current role as Director of Basketball Operations. Anastasieska was able to graduate with a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Duke University and a Master’s in Sports Management from the University of Illinois in addition to her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley.
By pursuing these degrees and leaning into what she as being taught, Anastasieska feels that she has the tools and knowledge to not only thrive in her current role, but also in her future aspirations of being a head coach. While receiving two Master’s degrees was indeed a big help in paving her career after being a student athlete, Anastasieska would not be where she is without the people she surrounded herself with during her career. Whether it be coaches or fellow teammates, the people that Anastasieska was surrounded by not only supported her during her career as a player, but also helped pave a path for where is today and where she seeks to be long term in collegiate basketball.
In addition to her experience in the collegiate basketball space, Anastasieska seeks to use what she learned as a player development coach at UPB to further her future endeavors. During her time as a coach, she found support from both Packie and Bianca Turner and also developed a passion for helping those who are dedicated to the game of basketball.
One client in particular who transformed from a shy, nervous camper into a close friend made her realize the power coaching has of bringing people together and inspires her to make this same impact in her future career. Anastasieska seeks to uphold UPB’s mission of believing in a growth mindset helping others reach their full potential as basketball players and as people. Her biggest piece of advice to reach one’s full potential is to simply ask questions and learn from others.
“No one knows everything. No one's perfect. You also don't know what you don't know. If you don't know something and you try to go and do it, it might end up being wrong, and there might be consequences to that. But if you know someone that knows, ask the question. It's never going to be a bad question,” Anastasieska said.
Despite her lofty goals of eventually becoming a head coach one day, Anastasieska recognizes the importance of excelling in every role she takes on leading up to that position. Whether it be handling administrative tasks or leading basic practice drills, she seeks to be the best at whatever she does and is always open to learning from her peers. She preaches that no matter what your goals are it is important to “be where your feet are.” She is embracing this mindset in her current position and is looking forward to being the best she can possibly be at her job and using those lessons to achieve her long term goals of coaching at the collegiate level.
Anastasieska will be continuing her role as Director of Basketball Operations at UCSB into the upcoming season, which is exciting for both her and the school. Despite many newcomers to the roster and veteran players graduating, there is a lot of hope and excitement surrounding the women’s team this year as they look to build off a very successful 2022-2023 season. The Gauchos and Anastasieska are both ready for a new chapter and have aspirations to win the Big West Conference and make the NCAA tournament this upcoming season.