AUSTIN (KXAN) — One of the players that helped make the Texas Longhorns basketball program nationally relevant in the late 1980s has died.

Lance Blanks, a star guard for the Longhorns from 1988-90 and ESPN/Longhorn Network basketball analyst, died Wednesday in Dallas. He was 56 years old.

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University of Texas guard Lance Blanks waves a towel in celebration during the final seconds of the team’s victory over Xavier in the NCAA Midwest Regionals in Dallas, March 23, 1990. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“We lost a truly great one with the passing of Lance Blanks, and we are all just crushed and heartbroken,” said Chris Del Conte, UT vice president and athletic director. “Lance is a Longhorn Legend, an icon, and had such a far-reaching presence and influence in the world of college and professional basketball. He was just a wonderful person who always had such positive energy, an engaging smile and a presence that lit up any room.”

Blanks, who was born in Del Rio and went to high school in The Woodlands, transferred to Texas after spending two seasons at Virginia and quickly became part of one of the most exciting teams the university had seen to that point. During Tom Penders’ first season in 1988-89, Texas improved from 16-13 to 25-9, and the Texas “BMW” paved a new era in Longhorns basketball with their wide-open, fastbreak offense.

Blanks, Travis Mays and Joey Wright, a trio of lightning-quick guards that seemingly scored at will, were at the forefront of the “Runnin’ Horns” nickname given to the team for their style of play, wildly in contrast to the deliberate, halfcourt style offense that previous coach Bob Weltlich put in place.

In Blanks’ first season, Texas made the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed and knocked off No. 6 Georgia Tech in the first round. The next season, “BMW” helped drive the Horns as a No. 10 seed all the way to the Elite Eight, the furthest the program has even been in the tournament. Blanks averaged 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game that season.

While in high school, he was named Mr. Texas Basketball in 1985. He was the 26th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons and played there until 1992. He joined the Minnesota Timberwolves for a season before playing in the Continental Basketball Association and then finished his playing career overseas. He moved into a front office career after his playing days. He was a scout for the San Antonio Spurs in 2000 and then was promoted to director of scouting in 2002. He served as the assistant general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers for from 2005-2010 before landing the general manager job for the Phoenix Suns, where he spent three seasons. Most recently, he had been with the Clippers organization as a scout.

Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations for the Clippers, said in a statement, “we were blessed to spend the time we did with Lance.”

“He was a tremendous father, son, teammate and colleague with an infectious personality, a kind heart and boundless love for the game,” Frank’s statement continued. “Lance was a creative thinker and an insightful evaluator who lifted our entire organization. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and many friends.”

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was playing with the San Antonio Spurs when Blanks was in their front office. Before the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, Kerr spoke kindly of Blanks, calling him, “a good friend.”

“It’s a devastating bit of news,” Kerr said. “I want to offer my condolences to Lance’s family and all of his friends. He will be missed — it’s a terrible day.”