CRANE, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – On Monday morning, family of legendary Permian High football coach, Gary Gaines, announced he had passed at the age of 73 after battling Alzheimer’s for quite some time.
Many people throughout West Texas High School Football have been mourning the loss of someone who left an incredible legacy behind, but what a lot of people don’t realize is Gaines grew up in Crane, and was making an impact on his surrounding community before anyone even knew it.
Some of his childhood friends spoke about watching he become the man every one knew him to be.
“We’d been missing him a while, because mentally he hasn’t been with us, but he’s been in our minds, and he will always be the gary gaines in our minds,” shrugged childhood friend, Bobby Butler.
Butler and Gaines played all kinds of sports together growing up, went to church together, and even had family meals together. To Butler, their bond was stronger than anything.
And while Friday Night Lights may have put Gaines on the map for those outside of West Texas, for those who knew him before, like Butler, he was already a legend.
“The book and the movie did not do him justice. He was a much greater man than what was portrayed,” added Butler.
“He is a true, true football coach, a legendary football coach, but more so a man, what he stood for,” said an emotional close friend of Gaines’, Henry Anderson. “Thank god that we still remember his legacy, it’s gonna live on.”
Anderson and Gaines never coached together, but to Anderson, Gaines is the reason he became a coach, as he hoped to be half the man his mentor was.
“He’d come by to visit me here, after he got out of coaching and we talked seriously about life and stuff and I told him, I said I always wanted to be like you,” said a choked up Anderson. “He had gone from high school to college, and he was ready to go. And I said, Man, I don’t see how you do it. He said, You just love it, you know? And I said, Well, I always wanted to be like, you.”
It was obvious to the average high school football fan that Gaines brought an abundance of success to every school he coached, taking multiple teams to state championships and leaving an incredible legacy behind him. But Coach Gaines also made sure to shape the players he was mentoring and make them upstanding men in the future.
Anderson added, “He drew people around because of who he was and what he stood for with children. You know, our job is to motivate children and make them better citizens. And he did that.”
“People wanted Gary to come and talk to their other kids. And he always had a motivational saying or something to motivate. He had to get a kid out here that might be troublesome or a kid that needed some help. He’d just go to them. He was just good with everybody,” he chuckled.
Teaching was the most important aspect of Gaines’ coaching, and friends said he’d hope to see someone to continue that.
Butler added, “There might be someone that could top Gary, and it’s someone that Gary taught or coached. And that’s probably what Gary would hope for. He always tried to teach his kids and his fellow coaches to be better than him, to be the best that they could be.”
Every one around him said the amount of support and love the family is receiving is outstanding and Gaines would’ve appreciated it all and been extremely humbled by it all.
“It’s deserved. If anybody deserves it, Gary does. He never had a big head. He never was a super star, he didn’t want to be. He was, but he didn’t want to be,” added Butler. “People looked up to him and he accepted them looking up to him, but he didn’t expect it. He just took it as it came. That’s what he did through life. He took it as it came.”
For those who loved Gaines, the important thing for them, is to make sure he knows just how much he was loved by them, and the West Texas high school football community.
Anderson cried, “I miss you, 22, he knows. I love you. You ran over me a few times when I was a baby sophomore, but probably the most famous 22 in West Texas is was he even in basketball. I remember trying to guard him, but he’s a great man.”
And Butler mentioned, “We all loved him, and his family knows it. We all, you know, grown man, don’t say I love you, but we did.”
The Gaines family has since announced a memorial service for Gary that will be held on September 17th at 2:00pm at the Crossroads Fellowship in Odessa.