Gary Gaines and his Texas high school football team provided the inspiration for the iconic “Friday Night Lights.” The coach died Monday at the age of 73 in Lubbock, Texas, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
“Following a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is with great sadness that the family of Coach Gary Gaines announces his peaceful passing this afternoon. Memorial plans will be announced in the coming days. Thank you for remembering our family in your thoughts and prayers,” his family said in a statement.
Gaines spent three decades coaching, notably at Odessa Permian from 1986-1989. Gaines went 47-6-1 during that stretch and led the team to a perfect season that ended with a state title in 1989.
The 1988 season was the subject of Buzz Bissinger’s book, “Friday Night Lights,” which was eventually made into a movie and then a television show on NBC.
While best known for his four-year stint at Permian, he also coached at Abilene Christian, which expressed condolences.
“The ACU football community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Texas coaching legend Gary Gaines, who spent five years at the helm of the Wildcat program. We are sending our condolences to the Gaines family,” the team wrote.
Colleagues spoke glowingly of Gaines to the Odessa American:
“He was one of the greatest men I ever knew,” said Ronny Flowers, the founder of Athletic Supply. He’s in a better place now, no question about it.”
“I was there when he was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame,” former Odessa coach Ron King said. “I just can’t find the words to pay respects. It’s a big loss for the coaching profession. There are a lot of coaches he took under his wing and mentored.”
“He had a lot of young coaches; he was a difference maker, like when you are coaching kids, you are trying to make a difference. I think Coach Gaines did that.”