Don’t be fooled by South Carolina coach Frank Martin’s intense demeanor and stern coaching style; he’s a family man at heart.
And now, Martin’s “second” family is making school history.
With a victory Sunday against Florida in the Elite Eight, South Carolina advanced to the Final Four for its first time ever.
The Gamecocks have rolled through the 2017 NCAA Tournament so far with huge upset wins against Duke, Baylor and Florida.
But once the final buzzer sounds, Martin’s intimidating appearance is thrown out the window.
After each of those victories, Martin has been shown on the TV broadcast celebrating not just with his team, but those who have been along for the entire ride: his family.
Martin has been married to his wife, Anya, for 11 years. She’s been at his side for much of his collegiate coaching career and rolled with the punches when he moved on from coaching at Kansas State University and headed east to South Carolina.
Now, Anya and the rest of the Martin family are headed to Phoenix to take on No. 1 Gonzaga for a chance to play in the NCAA championship.
Here’s what you need to know about Anya and Frank:
1. The Martins Have Three Children Together
After she turned him down about seven times for a date, Anya finally accepted Frank’s offer to go out for dinner. He told the Columbia Metropolitan in 2013 that Anya said she was originally going to cancel their first date, but waited too long and felt bad about ditching him, so she once again rolled with the punches.
Frank said that he sent her a dozen “Nicole roses” and Anya agreed to go out with him once more. Their relationship continued to grow from there, and the rest was history. He said it takes a someone with an extraordinary skillset to be a “coaches wife,” but she’s done it well.
It takes a very special wife. She is so understanding, so supportive, but when she sees I’m paying too much attention to the job, she steps in. I respect her for that. She is honest with me.
With Martin often traveling with the team to games, in the gym or on the recruiting trail much of the year, it’s been on Anya that’s been keeping control of the household.
The Martins have three children together: Brandon, Amalia and Christian. When Frank made the switch from KSU to USC, his children and wife stayed behind and finished up the school year in Kansas. In May 2013, the family was finally reunited.
Frank told the Columbia Metropolitan in 2013 that he was shocked to be overcome with huge support by the community when he took the job.
My family came here Memorial Day weekend. We live out in the Northeast part of town. We love it and have been real happy with the area. It’s very friendly for kids. South Carolina is very similar to the Midwest. Family values are important and home is very important, too. The hospitality we’ve experienced here has been awesome. The way people have welcomed our family has been just incredible.
Xavier University assistant coach Luke Murray has a familiar face in the stands during games: his father Bill Murray.
2. Frank Describes Anya as His Family’s ‘Backbone’
Managing the household alone much of the year has been an extensive process, and Anya’s been up to task.
In an interview with SECCountry.com, Frank called Anya the backbone of his family. Being so busy as the Gamecocks’ coach, he credited Anya for her hard work in ensuring the household is stable and that their children are headed down the right path.
The last five years have been hard. I haven’t been home. I’ve been trying to build a program, build a fan base and obviously recruiting. She’s moved into a community where she knew no one. She has handled our children and taken care of our home. She is my backbone. She’s been unbelievable and I needed to go over there and let them know how much I love them.
In 2016, Martin was considering leaving South Carolina in search of another coaching opportunity. But he ended up signing a contract extension with the school through 2022.
He said in a press conference following the extension that there was “no way” Anya would have let him leave South Carolina.
3. Anya’s Mother Battled Breast Cancer & The Martins Have Helped Raise Funds For Research
One of the biggest reasons Frank decided to leave KSU for South Carolina was so that Anya could be closer with her mother, Valerie Forrest, who was battling with breast cancer, The State reported.
You can often find Frank at charitable events in the area and more often than not, Anya is at his side. The couple have raised almost $300,000 for cancer research together.
In 2013, the Martins hosted a charitable event called “The B Ball of the South.” It was planned and organized by Anya in collaboration with Coaches vs. Cancer. It’s aimed at raising funds for cancer research and awareness.
In a speech at the event, Anya told the story of how she and Frank wanted to be involved in many more charitable events immediately when they moved to Columbia.
We just figured at this point, anything can happen, we can lose a loved one at any time. When we moved to Columbia, it was a way for us to put our mark out there. Columbia’s a great place and we love being here. We thought this was a great way to introduce us to the community and let them know that we’re not only here for you to do something for us, we’re here to do something for you as well.
The Martins’ Coaches vs. Cancer event wasn’t just a one-time thing. Instead, the couple have worked to make it an annual occurrence. It features a live auction, food, and dancing. The event has been sold out in year’s past with tickets costing $100.
At the second rendition of the event in 2014, Frank talked about how genuinely excited Anya gets about lending a hand in the community any way possible.
Cancer had a lot to do with us coming here and I knew it was something that had touched her in her heart. I didn’t know she was going to be this excited about doing the event but she’s taken it and ran with it, but at the same time it’s something I knew would touch her because I knew it touched me and that’s why I’m the happiest married man in the history of the world. She’s awesome.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins helped lead his team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. He is married to Kim Collins, who owns a photography business.
4. She Takes Kickboxing Classes & Plays Tennis In Her Spare Time
Anya said she wants to be the mom for her kids that’s always doing everything. She is enrolled in kickboxing classes and has a daily workout routine.
She said in an feature story with Nicole De Howitt that staying active is vital in creating a healthy lifestyle, which reflects on her family.
“I want to be that mom that’s on the go and in shape,” she said. “It really starts off my day the right way Sometimes just starting the day right with a little prayer and a little kickboxing gets me out of that complaining mode.”
Her kickboxing coach called her a very athletic woman that’s very well conditioned. He said that Anya always accepts the challenge and is passionate about her workouts.
In the feature, Anya said that one of the things she really enjoys to do when she has the time is play tennis. She said that she enjoys the competitiveness of it.
5. She Was a Champion Sprinter In College
Anya went to school at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and as a champion sprinter and hurdler. She majored in business and moved on to study taxation at Northeastern University.
She set multiple UMass records in events when she ran track for the team, including the 55-meter dash in 1996 and the 100-meter hurdles in 1998 — those records have since been broken.
However, she had to work hard to get back to health after a scary incident early in her collegiate running career. She fractured two vertebrae in her back and wasn’t able to return to the team for almost two years.
In 2000, Anya won the 100-meter dash and the 100-meter high hurdles at the USATF New England Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
North Carolina junior Justin Jackson has led the Tar Heels to another NCAA Tournament berth. He’ll be joined in the stadium by his girlfriend, Brooke Copeland.