Van Atta, a graduate of Mt. Juliet High School and the co-captain of the 1979 Trevecca Trojans, acknowledged that choosing between two schools that he loved was difficult. "This was a very touch decision, " he said. "The administration at Mt. Juliet has been great to work with; the kids have been outstanding. My decision came to time; I won't be teaching at Trevecca--just coaching. I am very excited to return to my alma mater, and I consider it a special privilege to give back a little to a place that has given so much to me," he added.
Van Atta's return is cheered by Trevecca fans. He brings a much-admired coaching record--at Motlow State Community College, at Montevallo in Alabama (seven years), and at UT-Martin, where he and his wife were co-coaches. He was inducted into the Montevallo Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 after having taken the Lady Falcons to six consecutive appearances in the NAIA National Tournament. He is the winningest coach in Montevallo history with a record of 166-49. His record at UT-Martin was 105-122 (for eight years); he and his wife were co-OVC coaches of the year in 1998; and they led the team to the OVC regular season title in 1999. That team advanced to the NWIT and reached the Sweet 16 with a victory over Ole Miss.
When he introduced Van Atta at the press conference, Alan Smith noted Van Atta's strong Trevecca roots, his impressive coaching history, and said, "Gary understands that Trevecca wants its players to become graduates, and he has a record of helping his players to graduate. We are very excited about the experience that Gary brings to this position."
Unable to attend the press conference because he was traveling for the university, President Dan Boone sent these remarks: "When I met Gary Van Atta and he told me about his life, I recognized that his life is one that has been touched by the grace of God in ways that make him appreciative of his family and the kindness of God. His leadership will build a team with a winning tradition, but I believe that he will help young people become persons who can affect the worl in which they live. I am pleased to welcome Gary as he returns to his Trevecca home."
When Van Atta was asked at the press conference about his feelings about leading a program that returns all but one of its players and one that has had a winning tradition, he answered, "During my previous coaching career I have usually gone into programs to rebuild them. I have never come into a winning situation before now, but I am very excited about the prospects of working with the winning program at Trevecca, one that was built by my good friend Julie van Beek."
Van Atta was employed to fill the position vacated by Julie van Beek when she accepted the head coach position at Seattle Pacific University earlier this summer.
Van Atta is married to the former Kim Satterfield. They have one daughter, K.C.