ODESSA, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Coach Gary Gaines, 73, passed away Monday following a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease – according to a statement from the Gaines family. Coach Gaines gained notoriety in the 1980s as he helped inspire the Friday Night Lights franchise, but he later came to be a Big Country name in the mid 1990s.
Coach Gaines made his way to Abilene to lead the Eagles program in 1994-1995. He was just 4-14 in those two seasons, but many credit Gaines setting the foundation that eventually led to the Eagles’ playoff run that started in 1999 and didn’t end until 2013.
Leading the Wildcats to the Lone Star Conference South Division championship in 2002, Coach Gaines left ACU with a 21-30 overall record.
Coach Gaines gained notoriety as the head coach for the Odessa Permian Panthers. He led the Panthers to a state co-championship in 1984, a perfect 16-0 record and state title in 1989. He was made famous by the book Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger, which chronicled Permian’s 1988 season. The book was later made into a movie.
Memorial plans will be announced in the coming days.