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Friday, May 14, 2021

Men's Basketball

Behind the UH ‘Dancing Coog’ meme


Dion Dagostino, dubbed the "Dancing Coog" by UH fans on Twitter, sparked a social media trend with his series of memes in support of the Houston mens basketball team.

Dion Dagostino, dubbed the “Dancing Coog” by UH fans on Twitter, sparked a social media trend with his series of memes in support of the Houston mens basketball team.

INDIANAPOLIS — Houston fans on Twitter have become well acquainted with a certain gif the past few months of a man staring into the camera and giving a little dance with a UH men’s basketball shirt on.

The “Dancing Coog,” as he was dubbed UH fans on Twitter, started making more frequent appearances as the Cougars continued to win games. From posts about Tramon Mark’s buzzer-beater against Memphis to more recently after defeating Oregon State, there was a good chance you’d see the person shimmying away in the replies.

For the UH fans themselves, his appearance is controversial. Some people described the meme as creepy, others thought it was funny and many have embraced it as a victory symbol.

But who is he?

Origins of the ‘Dancing Coog’

Dion Dagostino is the name. He lives all the way in Perth Western Australia and he is the man behind the meme, and yes, he knows he is a sensation among UH fans.

“I think it’s funny,” Dagostino said. “There are a lot of laughs over here. It’s good humor.”

His bubbly, enthusiastic personality could shock many that only know him from the gif, but there is a lot more to Dagostino than meets the eye.

For starters, he has been around basketball most of his life. Beginning to play as a 7-year-old, Dagostino eventually managed to become a semi-professional, playing for the Perry Lake Hawks two decades ago. That is when the seeds for the “Dancing Coog” first got planted.

Once his playing days were over, Dagostino transitioned into coaching the same men’s team he played for and then took the job as the coach for the women’s basketball team the Warren Senators before now coaching his daughter’s basketball team.

During his stint with the Hawks, however, Dagostino met a man named Justin Cuculich as the two were teammates and that quickly grew into a strong friendship that decades later ended up making Dagostino a figurehead for the UH men’s basketball team.

As time moved on, Cuculich and Dagostino remained close, and this past December during a Christmas gathering at Dagostino’s house, the ‘Dancing Coog’ was born.

While on opposite sides of the world, Cuculich watched as Dagostino goofed off and danced with his visitors. As Cuculich watched from his screen back home, one thing stood out to him, and that was the UH shirt that Dagostino was wearing.

Cuculich couldn’t stop laughing and figured if he took a video and made a gif out of it, it’s something that a few UH fans could get a chuckle.

By January, it started appearing on UH-related tweets, and then people started to reach out to Cuculich on Twitter to see if they could share it. Eventually, the gif was made searchable, and then more people got on the bandwagon, and it just continued to grow.

By the time the NCAA Tournament started, it had grown into a symbol for the UH men’s basketball team’s supporters on social media.

“(The idea was) 100 percent me,” Cuculich said. 

He was the one that originally took the UH gear to Australia prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he was the one that told Dagostino he needed to watch the Cougars. 

More to come?

When UH tips off against Baylor on Saturday, it will be early Sunday morning in Adelaide, Australia. Dagostino will likely be watching the game with his two children, and they will all be rooting for a Cougars’ win. 

They have grown to love the scrappy, fiery team, and to no surprise, Dagostino’s favorite player is senior guard DeJon Jarreau.

If the Cougars are able to win, however, there will be more gifs floating around on Twitter by the evening. After the Cougars advanced to their first Final Four since 1984, an updated gif of Dagostino started being shared online.

Like the original, Cuculich was the mastermind behind it and reached out to Dagostino to make a new one. There are already new gifs waiting to be released, Cuculich said.

Whether the gifs continue after this season, that is a different story. 

“I think it might need to retire,” Dagostino said. “I don’t think I really have that much more entertainment in me. I’m sure (Cuculich) will figure out a way to keep drag it on a little longer. But if the laughs keep coming, and people keep having a laugh then we will muck around with it.”

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