A drawn series should have been something of a triumph, given that the Lions were written off beforehand. But Gatland has few good memories.
In a bitter interview, Gatland slammed the Irish forward Sean O’Brien’s post-tour comments, the media and what he called general negativity.
O’Brien criticised the coaching methods on the tour and claimed attack coach Rob Howley had “struggled”.
Gatland, who coached the Lions to Australia in 2013 and was an assistant in South Africa four years earlier, will not be available for the 2021 tour to South Africa.
“I wouldn’t subject myself to that,” Gatland said.
“What I’ve learned from my Lions’ experiences is how difficult it is to put some continuity together in terms of people and staff and the lack of preparation time … let someone else do it. Let someone else reinvent the wheel.
“I’m done. I hated the tour. I did. I just hated the press and the negativity in New Zealand.
“When I look back on it now there were a lot of things that were satisfying and what an achievement it was but it was tough work. It was hard.
“You watch how hard the coaches and the backroom staff worked – they worked their absolute bollocks off on that tour – and then to have someone come out and make a comment like that … it really, really did hurt.”
Gatland said O’Brien’s claim they should have won 3-0 were “disrespectful to New Zealand”.
“I don’t know what planet he’s on but I was on a different tour to him if he thought we should have won comfortably,” Gatland continued.
“All the pressure is on the [Lions] head coach. I don’t feel there is anything near the same pressure on players as there is on coaches”.
“I was disappointed. I have to be honest — it took a bit of the gloss off the Lions tour. If he wanted to say something then there is a different forum rather than being critical.”
Gatland defended “player empowerment” after O’Brien claimed Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell “drove everything” in the second test build-up.
Gatland tried to make contact with O’Brien and received a text three weeks later in return.
Gatland said: “There’s no doubt Sean O’Brien had a fantastic tour. He played exceptionally well. There’s no doubt about his contribution on the playing field, he was excellent. In the changing room, as a voice, from a leadership point of view, he contributed extremely well. It’s only fair to acknowledge that. He was outstanding in the way that he did play and contribute.”
England forward Billy Vunipola, who missed the tour through injury, also disappointed Gatland after he claimed the Lions would have won 3 – 0 if Eddie Jones was in charge.
“I’ve never had any involvement with Billy,” Gatland said. “That’s the disappointing thing. You get second-hand people coming in and making comments as well.”
Meanwhile, a storm is brewing in Welsh rugby following news the side’s first-choice halfback will be ineligible from next season.
Gatland’s first choice halfback Rhys Webb, who is bound for Toulon in France, will fall foul of announced new selection policy guidelines.
Any player taking up a new contract outside Wales must have won 60 caps or more to be eligible, similar to Australia.
It’s thought Webb was not aware of the incoming rules when he signed.
Gatland says he has only signed a letter of agreement, not a contract.
He says the rule is something he’s not 100 percent comfortable with but Webb has made his decision.
Rhys Webb will be fighting Alby Mathewson for the halfback spot in Toulon, after the former All Black’s signature was announced overnight.