Iconic Odessa Permian, ‘Friday Night Lights’ coach Gary Gaines dies at 73

Odessa Permian,
Former Odessa Permian head coach Gary Gaines, who was featured in "Friday Night Lights," died on Monday. He was 73. (AP/Kevin Buehler, File)

Longtime Texas high school football coach Gary Gaines, who led Odessa Permian and was featured in the “Friday Night Lights” book and movie, died on Monday, his family confirmed. He was 73.

Gaines died in Lubbock, Texas, after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease, per The Associated Press.

Gaines spent three decades coaching throughout Texas, though most notably at Odessa Permian from 1986-89. 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 1990 best selling book, “Friday Night Lights,” which was eventually made into a movie in 2004 and then a television show on NBC. The 1988 team, which James “Boobie” Miles missed after injuring his knee, fell in the state semifinals.

Gaines was portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton in the 2004 movie.

Gaines also spent time coaching as an assistant at Texas Tech and the head coach at Abilene Christian. He led Abilene High School and San Angelo Central, worked as the athletic director in Odessa and in Lubbock, and then returned to lead Permian one last time in 2009.

“He taught me what I needed to be successful as a coach, how to coach kids and how to talk to kids to teach them to believe in themselves,” former Odessa coach Ron King told the Odessa American. “I’ve had two men that were father figures to me and Coach Gaines was one of them … 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.”