Gary Gaines, coach at heart of Friday Night Lights, dies aged 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 on 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, coaching them between 2009 and 2012.
His 1988 team was chronicled in Buzz Bissinger’s bestselling book, which portrayed a school that favored football over academics and dealt with issues such as race and class in America.
Friday Night Lights has been hailed as one of the best sports books of all time. The New York Times described it as “a biting indictment of the sports craziness that grips not only Odessa but most of American society, while at the same time providing a moving evocation of its powerful allure.”
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, was also turned into a TV series.
Permian lost in the state semi-finals in 1988, a season that included the loss of star running back James “Boobie” Miles to a knee injury. Miles’ character played a prominent role in the movie.