By mark rogers
February 28, 2012

I had the privilege of chatting with Permian head coach Gary Gaines and running backs coach, Jerale Badon last week. Badon is a familiar name as one of the top high school receivers in the state as a wide receiver for Abilene High.

He also set just about every Lone Star Conference receiving record while at ACU. He joined the Permian staff from SA Lake View last July and was an integral part of why the Panthers went from 0-5 in district to a playoff berth.

It was Gaines' first year back, and the program was facing an extremely negative and hostile Permian fan base. OK, maybe hostile is a bit much, but those Permian fans want a winner, and 0-5 wasn't cutting it. These are the fans that used to charter jets to fly the team to Dallas.

During the off-season last year, Gaines lost about half of his coaching staff and retooled with some up and comers with no limit potential (including Badon).

They turned things around and, according to Gaines, everybody is "back on track in terms of upholding the tradition." Permian faithful would have it no other way.

Gaines is as comfortable as ever in his role as head coach at Permian. He is tradition, greatness, and history personified. But you'd never know he was an all-time great coach. His demeanor and humility matches that of the local grocery bag guy at HEB.

Badon is the same. Total, complete greatness sitting in front of you, and if he didn't look like some sort of marble statue, you'd think he was supposed to be taking your ticket at the movie theater...humble, unassuming, unpretentious.

That kind of demeanor and style breeds winners and championships. And those are the types of coaches and players Gaines has always surrounded himself with.

The Panthers have rebuilt from the ground up and now have a very positive outlook for 2012. Their QB and RB both return. They also get back two OL, a WR, the whole secondary, and a big DT.

Gaines thinks they can fill in the rest with backups from last year and a JV that has a handful of really good football players on the roster. He said they may even have a sophomore or two on varsity to gain some invaluable experience.

Spring pads begins on April 30. To Gaines and the rest of the coaching staff, spring training is a time to develop depth, figure out which kids need to play what positions, and - most importantly - not get anyone hurt.

Badon played one year for Gaines at ACU and is having a blast in Odessa. Coming from a tradition-rich program like Abilene High, Badon says that the Permian aura is different...that it grows on you.

You've got no choice to be inundated since the parents on the booster club know the parlance of the system and what a 3 technique shaded slightly inside is. They also "spare no expense" for the annual football banquet which Badon likened to the Grammy's.

Building on 0-5, to a playoff appearance to finally getting a squad back with some depth and experience, the Panthers aren't just looking to make the playoffs in 2012. They have six state championships in their history, and it's been a while since any new paint was added to the sign displaying all of them.

The goal isn't win a district game or even make the playoffs this year. The goal for Permian is to have some wet paint glistening on the big sign outside the school come this December.

And with coaches like Gaines and Badon, don't rule them out just yet.

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