Depending on who you ask, the Detroit Pistons’ teal jerseys are among the best in franchise history. Or the worst.
The Pistons are gambling on the former being true for its core audience next season. The teal jerseys, which the franchise wore from 1996-2001, are returning next season as their “Classic Edition” uniform. The announcement received a lot of fanfare on social media, though some groans were mixed in.
The Teal Era, as it’s colloquially known, is a unique period in the team’s history — awkwardly sandwiched between the championship Bad Boys and Goin’ To Work teams, yet still highlighted by superstar play from Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse, three playoff appearances and a 54-win season.
The new teal jerseys, replicas of the ones from two decades ago, will be worn in 10 games next season. To some fans, they represent a period of mediocrity that followed the franchise’s first two championships. A younger generation of fans have grown to love the jerseys. And at least one player who wore the jersey is happy to see them return, too.
Stackhouse’s two All-Star appearances were both with the Pistons (2000, 2001). He arrived in Detroit in 1998, the middle of the Teal Era. But he remembers the tepid reaction they received then and is happy to see how the reception has grown warmer with time. Stackhouse appeared at the Pistons’ teal jersey launch party Monday at the Renaissance Center and weighed in on their return.
“We feel good about the fans remembering that teal,” he said. “I think it was probably met with mixed emotions when it was first out. Everyone was used the the red, white and blue. ‘Ah, we’re changing it to teal.’ People can’t take change, but then once it was gone it was like ‘Man, we kinda liked that.’
“There’s been enough clamor about it that the fans wanted it back. We’re glad they obliged and I’m glad that the Pistons thought enough of me to come back to help relaunch it.”
Stackhouse, the head coach at Vanderbilt since 2019, has seen firsthand how a younger generation has come to embrace old trends. And it’s given him an opportunity to reflect upon his time in Detroit. The Pistons didn’t live up to their lofty potential then. He and Hill formed a high-scoring duo, but injuries and team personnel issues capped their ceiling together. They were unable to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
But Stackhouse called his Pistons era a “bridge” between two hallmark periods in team history. He played with Bad Boys Joe Dumars and Rick Mahorn, was teammates with Ben Wallace and was included in the trade that brought Rip Hamilton to Detroit.
He appreciates his time as a Piston, regardless of their on-court success.
“I think it’s great, man,” he said. “People remember some things that we did in that era. It wasn’t the glory days, it wasn’t the Bad Boys, the ‘04 championship team, but in-between there we had Grant Hill, we had myself, we had Lindsay Hunter, Allan Houston, Terry Mills. We had a lot of guys that contributed to taking some ingredients from those Bad Boys. I was able to be in the locker room with Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars and all those guys, and those guys were men. They taught you how to be a professional.
“Nothing against Philadelphia, but I was with a lot of young guys. When I got here, I was around some pros, guys who knew how to go about their business. I learned from them and I was able to share that with other young guys that came through the organization, and I think some of those ingredients carried through what was kinda the bridge between those two eras.”
Next season’s roster will be headlined by several players who weren’t alive for the teal era. Cade Cunningham was born in 2001, and Jaden Ivey in 2002. Ironically, the Pistons have seen less success in their last 13 years than they did in the 14 years separating their 1990 and 2004 championships. Their last playoff win was in 2008, and they’ve made three playoff appearances in the time since.
But Cunningham is the franchise’s best young player since Hill, and Stackhouse sees similarities between the two players. It may take more time, but Stackhouse is optimistic that this group will bring the Pistons back to annual contention.
“Cade is super skilled and reminds me a little bit, the things that he can do, of Grant Hill,” Stackhouse said. “Can make plays for others, can make plays for himself. (Ivey), he reminds me a little bit of myself the way that he attacks the basket. I don’t know if I had any point guard skills. I did lead us in assists a couple of years. His bounce, his pedigree and what he brings to the table, I’m excited. The guys that have been here the last few years, the draft picks, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart and those guys, bring a toughness that really represents Detroit and what we’re about. I think it’s time for them to take that next step. …
“It may not be time for it right now. You let these guys grow and mold and then you can develop that guy internally or you have the cap space to go and bring in somebody like that. They’re right at that point right now, a lot closer than a couple years ago. The leadership, they understand that. You can’t fool Detroiters. They know what successful championship teams look like. They’ve gotta be excited about the pieces that are starting to come together now.”