Football Coach of 'Friday Night Lights' Fame Dies at Age 73


Gary Gaines, coach of the Texas high school football team made famous in the book and movie “Friday Night Lights,” has died. He was 73.

Gaines’ family said in a statement the former coach died Monday in Lubbock after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Gaines made many stops in West Texas during a 30-year coaching career but was best known for a four-year stint leading the highly successful program at Odessa Permian. Gaines returned to Permian later in his career.

Far-Left Dem Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Dead

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

Gaines, who was played by Billy Bob Thornton in the 2004 movie, 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-at-all-costs culture of a high school program in football-crazed Texas, also was turned into a TV series.

Permian lost in the state semifinals in 1988, a season that included the loss of star running back James “Boobie” Miles to a knee injury during a preseason scrimmage. Miles’ character played a prominent role in the movie.

The book described scenes of “for sale” signs being placed in the front yard of Gaines’ home. His record from 1986-89 was 47-6-1.

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

Former College Football Coach Fired, Calls Investigation a 'Sham'

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

Another four-year run as Permian’s coach started in 2009, and Gaines also was a school district athletic director in Odessa and Lubbock.

“I just can’t find the words to pay respects,” retired coach Ron King, a former Permian assistant, told the Odessa American. “It’s a big loss for the coaching profession. There are a lot of coaches he took under his wing and mentored.”

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, , , , , , , ,
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City