How happy was Ben Howland when he heard this?
As opposed to continuing the succession of one unsightly story after another, Muhammad's decision has set off a celebration among Bruins' fans and followers.
Even inside the illustrious program that was created by the unparalleled success of John Wooden, this declaration by the 6'6" teenage forward from Vegas officially launched the expectations for the 2012-13 season into the stratosphere.
And why not?
For the last four seasons, UCLA basketball has had more ups and downs than a rough ride at Mountain Mountain.
Since 2008, the Bruins have lost 52 total games, missed the postseason all together twice and spent the 2011-12 season like college hoops' drifters, staggering throughout Southern California playing "home games" at a variety of less-than-legendary locations.
In the middle of all of the revelry, some thoughts comes to mind:
- What if the Bruins don't deliver in the 2012-13 season?
- What are the outcomes if a collection of wet-behind-the-ears freshmen don't instantly turn things around?
- What will happen if, unlike Kentucky did just days ago, UCLA doesn't go all they way?
Even though I am a glass-half-full guy from head-to-toe, here is a quick look at what may happen if this story doesn't have a storybook ending.
Let's face it.
UCLA is one of those places where "good seasons" aren't good enough.
Success is not measured in Westwood with wins and losses but with banners—championship banners.
More specifically, NCAA Championship banners.
It's hard not to when you have the most national titles (11) of any men's college basketball program—just ask Gene Bartow, Gary Cunningham, Larry Brown, Larry Farmer, Walt Hazzard, Steve Lavin and Ben Howland.
All of these UCLA coaches won more than their fair share of games, but didn't deliver another NCAA Championship.
Jim Harrick added one banner to John Wooden's 10, but even he was criticized for "only" winning one title.
Every season that Muhammad is playing in Westwood where the Bruins don't win an NCAA National Championship will be considered by many UCLA fans as a disappointment.
One of the things that John Calipari hasn't had to deal much with before this year in his magical run at Kentucky is blending new players with a significant existing roster.
If everyone is new, there isn't as much chance for "Us vs. Them" jealousies to form.
The above picture comes from UCLA's website.
Whoever put this image together didn't do Ben Howland or the incoming freshmen any favors.
Kind of an "Out with the old, in with the NEW" message, don't you think?
It will take a special effort on everyone's part to combine the talent that already exists at UCLA with the new young studs that are soon headed in that direction.
Many people have said, "Winning solves everything."
If the Bruins wobble out of the gate in 2012-13, we might see and hear some interesting things out of the newly renovated Pauley Pavillion.
Reporters from every media outlet will race towards Bruins' center Josh Smith to get his thoughts.
He never seems to lack an opinion or perspective.
You have to give it to Ben Howland.
After a tumultuous 2011-12 season, he didn't look to point the finger at other people.
He took responsibility for the on and off-the-court issues that surrounded the Bruins this past year.
This past season has been the most challenging of my 31 years as a college basketball coach. I have endured seasons with fewer wins, but none with more disappointment. The unfavorable light that is cast upon our program is my responsibility as the UCLA head coach. But we will get better, and I will get better.
Even though Howland restored some credibility by reeling Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams in, that respect will vanish if the Bruins don't win immediately and consistently throughout the 2012-13 season.
There will be no patience for the team to gel. There will be no margin for error.
I don't know who will be on this coming season's early schedule, but if UCLA stumbles at all in their opening November games, get ready for Howland's backside to be burning.
Only the most optimistic Bruins' fans think that Shabazz Muhammad or Kyle Anderson will be in the program for more than one season.
Muhammad's own words (via Yahoo Sports), uttered shortly after his announcement, make it sound like that decision has already been made: "Everyone in Westwood, LA, California, get ready for a great season next year," Muhammad said. "Hopefully we can sell out Pauley."
The truth is: Both of these young players would be lottery picks in the 2012 NBA Draft if they could be eligible.
They will just have to hold on one more year before they shake David Stern's hand sometime in late June 2013...whether they cut down nets in Atlanta next year or not.