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'Friday Night Lights' Football Coach Gary Gaines Dies at Age 73

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 23, 2022

Gary Gaines (AP Photo/Kevin Buehler)

Gary Gaines, who served as the head coach of the Texas high school football team featured in the Friday Night Lights book, died Monday at the age of 73.

Gaines' family said in a statement his death came after a "long battle with Alzheimer's disease," according to the Associated Press.

Author H.G. Bissinger spent the entire 1988 season embedded with the Permian High School football team to write Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream, which was released in 1990.

It was later adapted into a movie starring Billy Bob Thornton in 2004 and a television series, which ran for five seasons beginning in 2006.

Gaines, who left Permian after the 1989 season, returned to the school in 2009 for the final stop of his coaching career, which spanned over 30 years at the high school and college levels.

The Associated Press noted the Texas native never read the book about his 1988 team, and in a prior interview with the AP, he stated his family was unhappy with how elements were portrayed.

"I said, 'What's so bad about it?'" Gaines said of a conversation with his wife, Sharon. "She said, '[Bissinger] acted like we're a bunch of racists.'"

Other coaches like Ron King, who worked as an assistant for Gaines at Permian, remembered him as a "difference-maker," per Lee Scheide of the Odessa American.

"I was there when he was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame," 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."

Along with leading several Texas high school teams, Gaines also spent five years as head coach of the Abilene Christian college program starting in 2000.

He retired from coaching in 2012 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2017.

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