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Jerry Van Dyke, Luther the Football Assistant on 'Coach,' Dies at 86

12:37 PM PST 1/6/2018 by Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge

The younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, the comic actor turned down 'Gilligan's Island' to star on the ill-fated 'My Mother the Car.'

Jerry Van Dyke, the younger brother of Dick Van Dyke who earned four Emmy nominations for playing the befuddled defensive coordinator Luther Van Dam on the ABC comedy Coach, has died, a source close to his family confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 86.

Van Dyke died Friday at his ranch in Hot Spring County in Arkansas, according to the Associated Press. His wife, Shirley Ann Jones, was by his side. No cause was immediately known.

Van Dyke famously passed up the opportunity to star on Gilligan's Island in favor of toplining the short-lived My Mother the Car, considered one of the worst shows in TV history.

Van Dyke started out as a banjo-playing stand-up comic, and his fun persona throughout his long career was that of a country boy, endearingly earnest and slow-witted.

After working on several TV shows that never stuck, Van Dyke earned supporting actor Emmy nominations in 1990, '91, '92 and '94 for his work as one of Craig T. Nelson's assistants on the staff of the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles on Coach. The series aired for nine seasons, from 1989 until 1997.

"God knows I tried to make it earlier in life, but with all due respect to myself, nothing I ever did was any good," Van Dyke told People magazine in a 1993 interview. "I would like to philosophize and say what it was that kept me going, but the truth is, I can't do anything else."

More recently, Van Dyke had a recurring role as Tag Spence, the father of Patricia Heaton's Frankie, on The Middle. Dick appeared as his brother on the ABC sitcom in 2015, and the two often appeared on the small screen together. They also shared the stage for a production of The Sunshine Boys.

In fact, one of Jerry Van Dyke's biggest and earliest breaks came in 1962 when he was hired to portray Rob Petrie's sleepwalking sibling Stacey on two episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. (He was a sleepwalker in real life.)

In 1963, Van Dyke appeared in the features Palm Springs Weekend, directed by Norman Taurog; Vincente Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father; and the John Wayne Western McClintock!

All this led to September 1965 and NBC's My Mother the Car. Van Dyke was cast as an attorney named Dave Crabtree who buys a 1928 Porter Stanhope off a used-car lot and then discovers that the antique vehicle is the reincarnation of his mom.

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