Legendary ‘Friday Night Lights’ Coach Dead At 73

Legendary ‘Friday Night Lights’ Coach Dead At 73

Longtime high school football coach Gary Gaines has passed away at the age of 73, according to a statement released by his family on Monday.

Gaines, whose coaching career spanned four decades, was the inspiration behind the popular book and film “Friday Night Lights,” where he was portrayed by actor Billy Bob Thornton. His family stated that he had passed after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“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,” the statement read.

Gaines’ career began at Petersburg High School in Texas in 1977, after which he coached at Permian High School — where he assisted head coach John Wilkins in leading his 1980 team to the Texas 5A championship. “Friday Night Lights” follows the Permian High School team through its 1988 season.

Abilene Christian University, where Gaines also coached for several years, paid tribute to the late legend in a tweet, saying, “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 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. pic.twitter.com/9nmVPLd2FL

— ACU Football (@ACUFootball) August 23, 2022

CBS7 Sports Director Jakob Brandenburg noted that Gaines had coached Permian himself in the season following the now-famous 1988 run to the championship that was detailed in the book and the movie.

BREAKING: Former Permian Coach Gary Gaines, made famous by Friday Night Lights, died this evening according to his family.

Gaines coached the Panthers to the state championship in 1989, the year after the season chronicled in the book and movie. #txhsfb pic.twitter.com/QZBJOHX8nR

— Jakob Brandenburg (@Jakob_BburgTV) August 23, 2022

“RIP to ex-Permian coach Gary Gaines, who died at 73. In 1986 I had the privilege of covering Permian for Odessa American, Gaines’ 1st year at PHS. Mojo didn’t make playoffs that year, a rarity for school. Gaines was such an incredible person & immortalized in Friday Night Lights,” Brett McMurphy added.

“RIP Coach Gary Gaines. We lost a great coach and a better man,” Permian’s official account tweeted.

Lobo Sports Network added a tribute as well, saying, “Former Monahans Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Gary Gaines passed away earlier today. Long before Friday Night Lights fame, Coach Gaines transformed Monahans Football into a West Texas powerhouse. Rest In Peace Coach Gaines. You are once again PERFECT.”

Former Monahans Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Gary Gaines passed away earlier today. Long before Friday Night Lights fame, Coach Gaines transformed Monahans Football into a West Texas powerhouse. Rest In Peace Coach Gaines. You are once again PERFECT. pic.twitter.com/i0XDYxmx6c

— LOBO SPORTS NETWORK (@LOBOES) August 23, 2022

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