A Look at the Career of Coach Gary Gaines

Published on August 12th, 2023 2:19 pm EST

The story of what happened to Coach Garry Gaines after his time with the Permian Panthers. The 1990 book by H.G. Bissinger, titled "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream" chronicled the 1988 season of the Permian High School Panthers and their thrilling run to the Texas state championship semi-finals (they would eventually lose a hard-fought game to the Dallas Carter Cowboys).

The book, which illustrated life in football-mad Texas, was made into the 2004 movie titled "Friday Night Lights", which starred Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines.

The article will answer the question - what happened to Coach Gary Gaines after the 1988 season?


From 1979-1981, Gary Gaines was an assistant coach at Permian High School under Head Coach John Wilkins.

During that time, Permian won the Texas 5A state championship (1980), which gave Gaines a taste of winning.

Gaines would parlay this success into a head coach gig at Monahans High School, where he would stay until 1985.

In 1985, Coach John Wilkins retired from Permian, and Coach Gary Gaines took over.

The team was very good at that point, having gone to the state championship games in both 1984 and 1985 (tied in 1984, lost in 1985).

In 1988, under Coach Gary Gaines, Permian went to the state championship semi-finals, only to lose to the Dallas Carter Cowboys. The run to the semi-finals was notable, as the team lost their best player, James "Boobie" Miles, to a knee injury in the preseason. The team overcame adversity but fell just short.


As is mentioned at the end of "Friday Night Lights", Permian would win the 1989 5A state championship. This is true and not a "Hollywood ending".

Permian would destroy the competition in 1989, going a perfect 16-0 en route to winning the state championship.


Gaines was at the peak of his career at this point, and he decided to jump into college football.

Gaines would leave Permian with a record of 46-7-1.

Gaines would get hired at Texas Tech University as the team's new linebackers coach.

During his five years at Texas Tech, the team would go 27-30.

After the 1994 season, Gaines decided to head back to high school, where he would coach Abilene High School (1994-1995) and Central High School (1996-1999).

The years at these two high schools were not nearly as fruitful as the time that Coach Gaines spent at Permian.


In 2000, Gaines went back to college football as he got a job as head coach of Abilene Christian University.

The team struggled with Gaines as their head coach, though they managed to turn things around in 2002, as they posted a record of 6-4 and won the Lone Star Conference South Division Championship.

Gaines would resign at the end of the 2004 season, and many thought that he would retire at this point, as he spent five years away from the game, instead working as an athletic director for two different school districts.

In 2009, Gaines would return to Permian as their new Head Coach, in a move that surprised many.

Unfortunately for Permian's fans and Coach Gaines himself, the team was not able to replicate their success, as they managed just one playoff victory over four years under Coach Gaines.

At the end of the 2012 season, Coach Gaines would step down, saying that he was retiring from football for good.


Coach Gaines would pass away in 2022 from Alzheimer's disease.

Coach Gaines would finish his career with a 21-30 record in college, and a 127-93-5 record in high school football.

Gaines was inducted into the Texas High School Hall of Fame.

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