ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- Permian High School football legend Coach Gary Gaines, 73, died Monday following a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, the family said in a statement. 

The football giant joined the coaching staff at Permian in 1979 where he served as assistant coach under then head coach John Wilkins. He served in that role through 1981 and was instrumental in helping the Panthers win the state championship in 1980. 

Upon Wilkins’ retirement in 1985, Gaines returned to PHS as head coach and led the team to the championship once again in the late 80s. Gaines was later featured in the book Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, authored by H. G. Bissinger. Bissinger spent a year in Odessa researching the phenomenon that is West Texas football; his best-seller chronicled the sport and its impact on an oil-patch community.

He left Permian in 1989 but returned two decades later as head coach in 2009- he stayed until 2012 when he announced his retirement. His career spanned four decades, coaching at eight Texas high schools over 30 seasons; he also coached at two colleges in the Lone Star State.

“Thank you for remembering our family in your thoughts and prayers,” the Gaines family said.

Memorial plans will be announced in the coming days, and we will update as that information becomes available.