"I remember as a young boy the Lions winning in New Zealand in 1971 - that really captured my imagination about the Lions and how strong they were," said Gatland, who tasted victory against the Lions for Waikato 15 years ago.
"As a player in 1993, and it only comes around once in your career to play against the Lions, it was a huge honour.
"At the time, we were probably one of the best teams in New Zealand. It was the Tuesday before the last Test and 35,000 people turned up to watch Waikato.
"We did give the Lions a bit of a thumping that day but I remember just how motivated the players were. They were incredibly determined to do well because they saw it as once in a lifetime opportunity to play against the Lions."
Having previously plotted their downfall, Gatland is already determined to lead the Lions to success when they take on the World Champions in less than eight months time.
The man who oversaw Wales' Grand Slam triumph earlier this year and will now form a formidable Lions coaching team with McGeechan, Sean Edwards and Rob Howley, is acutely aware of the expectations that accompany a Lions tour. For Gatland, there is an overwhelming desire to do justice to one of the game's great traditions.
"I'm very humbled, first of all to be considered and then to be asked by Ian to come on board.
"I think that I need to be very aware of the responsibilities that go with that, who I'm representing, the coaches that have gone before and the players and the history and what the Lions means. It's really important that I convey that.
"I'm lucky enough, having spent time in Ireland as well and with Wasps and now Wales, to hopefully have a pretty good understanding of the cultures and the people involved. With my own experience as a Kiwi as well, I'm really hoping that I can add to the coaching and management group."