Gary Gaines and his Texas high school football team provided the inspiration for the iconic Friday Night Lights. The coach died Monday at age 73 in Lubbock, Texas, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
“After 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. Plans for a memorial will be announced in the coming days. Thank you for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers,” his family said in a statement.
Gaines spent three decades as a coach, most notably at Odessa Permian from 1986-1989. Gaines went 47-6-1 during that span 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 an NBC television show.
Although he is best known for his four-year stint at Permian, he also coached at Abilene Christian, which offered 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 send our condolences to the Gaines family,” the team wrote.
Colleagues spoke highly of Gaines before Odessa American:
“He was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known,” said Ronnie Flowers, the founder of Athletic Supply. He’s in a better place now, no doubt.”
“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 express my respect. This is a great loss for the coaching profession. There are many coaches he has taken under his wing and mentored.”
“He had a lot of young coaches; he was making the difference, like when you coach kids you try to make the difference. I think Coach Gaines did that.