The history of Olliewood

The student section cheers on UConn on March 6, 2016 at Gampel Pavilion. "Olliewood" is the endearing term to described the UConn faithful. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

The 1993-94 University of Connecticut men’s basketball team is remembered for a lot of things. The Huskies went 29-5, and their 16-2 Big East record was the conference’s best.

Jim Calhoun’s squad was filled with some of the greatest to ever put on a UConn jersey. Donyell Marshall was posting 25 points and nine rebounds per game in his last season as a Husky. And a 6-foot-5-inch shooting guard by the name of Ray Allen was averaging 12 points in his first season at Storrs.

On game days, way up in the back of the student section at Gampel Pavilion, you could’ve found junior business major Jesse Archambeault and his friends.

This is important because in a time remembered for names like Marshall, Allen, and Sheffer, we can remember another legacy that exists in Storrs: Olliewood.

“There were so many exciting players on the team,” said Archambeault, now a married father of three. “A few of us always liked Kevin Ollie. He was a grinder and we felt comfortable with the ball in his hands. People always talk about Kemba and Shabazz nowadays, but that was Kevin Ollie for us. He was a lot less flashy, but he was our guy.”

In the 1993-94 season, Kevin Ollie averaged 6.4 points in 28 minutes. With guys like Donyell, Allen, and Donny Marshall on the squad, it takes a certain type of dedication to rally around Ollie instead. That same dedication lead Archambeault and his roommate to rummage around the Math/Science Building for scrap paper to make the very first Olliewood sign.

“My roommate and I had these horrible seats. Way in the back, all the way against the wall,” said Archambeault. “We thought ‘why not hang up an Olliewood sign?’ We knew he was from California…it was pretty clever.”

Following a men’s game, a picture of Archambeault and the sign was part of an article in the Daily Campus.

“A couple of guys from my hallway came up to my roommate and I and showed us the paper, but that was about as much fame as we got,” said Archambeault. “We were always so high up, I’m surprised the Daily Campus even saw us.”

Fast-forward 18 years later when Ollie was named the head coach of the Huskies. Olliewood was back in Storrs. For Archambeault, he was confident about his guy.

“It was tough because he was unproven. But I always liked Calhoun, and if anyone knows Calhoun it’s Kevin Ollie. Cautiously optimistic was probably the best way to describe it,” explained Archambeault. “But now he’s great. Can’t argue with a national championship. He coaches the team like how he played the game.”

Nowadays, UConn basketball uses the term Olliewood everywhere. The marketing team hands out signs at home games, and Olliewood t-shirts can be found at the Co-Op. The phrase has grown in popularity since its days as a sign made of scrap paper up against the back wall of Gampel, but to Archambeault, its meaning has stayed the same.

 “As an alumni, it’s cool to see that. It’s clever, it’s fun, and it’s great to rally around,” said Archambeault. “Gampel is one of the best places to play at in the country. Olliewood gives it a certain persona.”


Connor Donahue is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu.