Friday Night Lights star Gary Gaines’ high school coach dies at 73

Gary Gaines, the coach of the Texas High School football team made famous by the book and film Friday Night Lights, has died at the age of 73.

According to his family, the former coach died Monday in Lubbock after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Gaines made many stints in West Texas during his 30-year coaching career, but is best known for four years as director of the highly successful program at Odessa Permian High School.

Later in his career he returned to Perm.


Gary Gaines thanks his assistant coaches and players for their years of service during his acceptance speech after being inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2013 (Odessa American/AP).

His 1988 team was documented in Buzz Bissinger’s best-selling book, which portrayed a program and school that favored football over academics and attributed racist comments to assistant coaches.

Gaines, played by Billy Bob Thornton in the 2004 film, said he never read the book and felt betrayed by Bissinger after the author spent the entire 1988 season with the team.

The book, which portrayed Gaines as a compassionate coach caught in the win-any-cost culture of a high school program in rust-mad Texas, was also adapted into a television series.

Permian lost in the 1988 state semifinals, a season in which star running back James “Boobie” Miles was lost to a knee injury during a preseason practice session. Miles’ character played a prominent role in the film.


Gaines watches his high school football players practice in Odessa, Texas in May 2009 (AP)

The book detailed scenes of “For Sale” signs that were posted in the front yard of Gaines’ home after the defeat. His 1986-89 record was 47-6-1.

Gaines led Permian to a perfect season in 1989 to the fifth of the program’s six state championships, then moved to Texas Tech to become an assistant coach.

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He later coached two of Permian’s rivals, Abilene High and San Angelo Central, before returning to college as a coach at Abilene Christian.

Another four-year run as Permian’s coach began in 2009, and Gaines also served as the Odessa and Lubbock school district athletic director.

“I just can’t find the words to pay my respects,” said retired coach Ron King, a former Permian assistant, to the Odessa-American.

“It’s a huge loss for the coaching profession. There are many coaches that he has taken under his wing and mentored.” Friday Night Lights star Gary Gaines’ high school coach dies at 73

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