Gary Van Atta, winningest coach in Montevallo women’s basketball history, announces retirement

Published 5:12 pm Friday, June 30, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


MONTEVALLO – University of Montevallo women’s basketball Head Coach Gary Van Atta, the winningest coach in program history and current UM Hall of Famer, has announced his retirement after 14 seasons with the Purple and Gold.

“This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make,” said Van Atta. “This community has embraced me for a long time. The thing that has impressed me most about Montevallo is; if you have ever stepped foot on the bricks, you are family for life. I am sad to see this chapter end but I am excited for the next chapter. I love basketball and I will continue to teach and grow the game.”

Van Atta, who concludes his career at Montevallo with a 244-161 record, owns the most wins in program history (244), the most Division II era wins (78), and the highest win percentage of any UM Head Coach (.602).

“Coach Van Atta has truly had an illustrious career and we are thankful to be part of his story,” said Director of Athletics Mark Richard. “Seven years ago, Coach Van Atta came back to finish what he started. We had 20 tough years in his absence with only a handful of winning seasons and within a few years of returning he led us to the first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance in program history.”

“He is a great teacher of the game. He is extremely passionate about the sport and is well-known throughout collegiate basketball,” added Richard. “Thank you to Coach Van Atta for his 14 years of service to this university and the Montevallo community. We wish him nothing but the best in the next chapter of his life.”

The Hall of Famer earned his first four-year college head coaching job at Montevallo ahead of the 1989-90 season and made an instant impact. Then a member of NAIA, Van Atta led the Falcons to its winningest season in program history, to that point, with a 24-6 overall record. After adding 18 wins in 1990-91, Van Atta led UM to five straight seasons with 20 or more wins, including a program-best 28-7 record in 1993-94.

In 1995-96, Van Atta guided UM to a 25-4 record during the first of two transition seasons to NCAA Division II. Following that season, Van Atta left UM as the winningest coach in program history to become the Head Coach at Division-I program UT Martin. From 1996 to 2016, while at UT Martin and his alma mater Trevecca Nazarene, Van Atta continued his winning ways – becoming the winningest coach in program history at UT Martin and turning in a combined 321-242 record at both programs.

In 2016, Van Atta decided to return to Montevallo for a second time around, this time as the winningest head coach and a Hall of Famer (’99). Before Van Atta returned home, the Falcons endured 15 losing seasons since his previous departure in 1996.

“Mark has been a tremendous friend and supporter over the years,” added Van Atta. “I am thankful that Mark and Dr. Stewart offered me the opportunity to return to the place I call home.”

“Dr. Stewart’s commitment to athletics has been nothing short of amazing,” said Van Atta. “I have worked with several Presidents throughout my career and Dr. Stewart is at the top.”

During the 2018-19 season, Van Atta led the Falcons to 12 wins – the most since 2013. He built upon that success in 2019-20 as the squad turned in an 18-11 record, marking the first winning season for the program since 2013, the most wins in the Division II era, and the most wins in a season since the final year of his previous stint in 1995-96.

Van Atta continued rewriting history in 2020-21 as the Falcons finished 14-7 overall, in a COVID-shortened season, and were selected to the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time in program history.

The Hall of Fame coach added 25 more wins over his final two seasons in 2021-22, and 2022-23, and continued a streak of four-straight GSC tournament appearances.

Van Atta eclipsed the paramount 700-win milestone in 2023 for his entire coaching career when the Falcons defeated Shorter 90-46 and set a program record with 16 made three-pointers in the win.

With 12 wins during his final season in 2023, Van Atta finished his second stint at UM with 78 wins to further cement himself as the Falcons’ winningest coach – 191 wins above the next highest.

At Montevallo, Van Atta’s teams not only found success on the court but in the classroom and community as well. The Falcons have continued their commitment to community service over the years and turned in a 3.8 team grade point average this academic year. For three consecutive seasons, the Falcons have been ranked in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top-25.

Overall, Van Atta’s coaching career wraps up with a 702-453 coaching record that includes stints at the four-year collegiate level (NAIA,D-I and D-II), junior college level, and high school. Before announcing his retirement, Van Atta ranked 12th among active NCAA Division-II head coaches with 565 wins and was the winningest active head coach in the state of Alabama.