Famed Coach Feeling MOJO

"Friday Night Lights" coach Gary Gaines is headed back to Odessa Permian after 20 years.

With the help of a book, a movie and a fictional television show on NBC, Gary Gaines isn't quite a household name, but he's darn close.

Billy Bob Thornton has played him, and now there might be room for a sequel as Gaines is set to become the next head coach at Permian after Darren Allman got the highly sought after job at Austin Westlake.

Gaines previously coached MOJO as an assistant from 1979 to 1981, and as the head man from 1986-1989. The Panthers won Class 5A state championships in 1980 and 1989.

H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger first put MOJO on the national scene in 1990 after spending the entire 1988 football season in Odessa and having behind-the-scenes access to the Panthers, who truly controlled the emotions of an entire good-sized town. Now, his re-hiring is big enough to make ESPN.com.

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Gaines, known as a great man, who never cussed or really did anything bad, still doesn't talk about the book, but you have to think he'll be asked about it plenty now after accepting the offer to return to the Ratliff Stadium sidelines.

For those who haven't read it, everyone should read Bissinger's book, "Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream", and not just football fans. The book is really more of a sociological expose on a bit of a backward, football-obsessed town.

Don't get me wrong, things have changed since those days, and it's not nearly as radical and at times ridiculous as it was back then, but as someone who grew up in the old District 4-5A, which included Odessa High, Odessa Permian, San Angelo Central, Midland High, Midland Lee, Abilene High and Abilene Cooper and was otherwise known as "The Little Southwest Conference", I can tell you what a huge amount of mystique came to town with the Permian Panthers back in that time.

It'll be interesting to see how Gaines does after stints at San Angelo Central, Abilene Christian University, athletic director for Ector County ISD (Odessa's county) and as the athletic director for Lubbock ISD since his last season on the sidelines in Odessa.

Can the 59-year old continue a recent run of success at Permian after years of struggling, or will his return be too much of a circus?

The Panthers have gone 12-0 in the past two seasons before meeting up with Metroplex powerhouses in the third round of the playoffs -- losing to Euless Trinity in 2007 and Allen in 2008. They went 9-4 in 2006 before being blown out in the third round by Southlake Carroll, but prior to that went seven seasons without a playoff berth, averaging less than five wins a season over that time.

Many speculate that Permian's success coincides with oil booms, which is a fair assessment considering the great amount of oil workers in the area. If that is true, it could be some trying times ahead for Gaines and the Panthers.

Adam Boedeker is a sports writer/blogger for the Denton Record-Chronicle. He thinks clear minds and full hearts can't lose.

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