Longtime Dons’ football coach hangs up clipboard
February 1, 2016
Former De Anza College head coach Dan Atencio, who guided the Dons to three conference championships and received three Coach of the Year awards, announced last November that 2015 would be his final season.
After 46 years of coaching different levels of football, Atencio decided to fall back on a career that started at his alma mater, San Francisco State University.
During his playing career, he played linebacker and long snapper while sharing the sidelines with quarterback Bob Toledo, who he would later coach with at UC Riverside.
While at school, Atencio decided he wanted to help students and make a difference in their lives. He found a way to incorporate his passion for developing scholars and athletes by teaching history at the same time as coaching.
After finishing his teaching credentials at Skyline High School in Oakland, Atencio joined Toledo at UC Riverside and was part of the coaching staff that won consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in 1974-1975.
Following Riverside, stops at California Polytechnic State University and Santa Clara University added to an already well-established resume.
In 1986, Atencio, then an assistant coach, was part of the San Jose City College coaching staff that won the Junior College National Championship. After this accomplishment, he made one more career move before finally landing at De Anza College as a linebackers coach.
“He was very polished and had experience at the community college level,” said De Anza Athletic Director Kulwant Singh on the hiring of Atencio.
Atencio was promoted to head coach in October 2006. His teams showed vast improvement in three years, with the 2009 football season being his pinnacle accomplishment at De Anza, when he led the Dons to a conference title and winning two coach of the year awards. Atencio’s coaching style proved to be getting the most out of his players.
“We don’t lie to our players,” Atencio said. “They respect you as a teacher and coach… that has always been rewarding to me.”
Adding to his achievements, Atencio was awarded Coach of the Year by the Golden Gate Conference after leading his team to a conference championship in 2010. His final conference championship came in 2012 after a three-year spell of dominance over the conference.
The greatest coaching achievement for the former Dons coach was his ability to help his player’s progress in life and reach their goals. Former players are currently playing or coaching in the NFL, which shows the work Atencio has put into creating successful paths for his athletes.
After coaching at De Anza for almost eight years, Atencio struggled to make a decision to retire and leave behind what he loved most.
“The time I have been at De Anza, the people have been great to work with,” he said. “The administration, staff, secretaries… the thing about De Anza that I liked, was that they were also winners at their jobs.
“They were all positive people, and they wanted the same goals I wanted. They wanted De Anza to be the best.”