Bailey was not always a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his younger years were hard. He grew up on the east coast in violent home and tough neighborhood, but his life has led him to something better.
Thurl was recruited by the late Jim Valvano at North Carolina State University. He was an instrumental member of the 1983 National Championship team that beat the heavily favored University of Houston team with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on a last second basket.
Bailey was drafted by the Utah Jazz out of college as their first pick. His college coach encouraged this draft, telling Utah Jazz representatives that Thurl would not only be a good player for the team, but a good member of the community.
In 1989, while Bailey was playing for the Utah Jazz, he met Sindi Southwick who was a basketball player at Utah Valley State College. Both had just recently been divorced, but that was about where the obvious commonalities stopped. Sindi was Latter-day Saint, white, grew up on a farm in Utah, and was only 19. Bailey was Baptist, black, grew up in a city, and was 28. They dated casually for a few years, then exclusively before being married in 1994. But the decision was a hard one. Sindi’s family did not approve of the match, but by the time the couple had their first child in 1995 the family had learned to love Bailey.
In the early years of their marriage Bailey was offered a spot to play on a team in Italy, despite his doubts he took the job. Despite the fact that Sindi was a member of the Church Bailey had not joined, though Sindi commented she always knew he someday would. Bailey respected Sindi and the standards she kept and she never pushed him about joining the Church.
Bailey went to Italy before his family to make living arrangements, during that time he also set up an appointment to meet the Mormon missionaries. He had several discussions with the missionaries, then called Sindi. When she picked up the phone there was only silence. Bailey was too emotional to say anything but Sindi knew who it was and after a few minutes said, “you’re going to be baptized, aren’t you?”
Bailey has continued to do well in life outside of basketball. He runs a charity foundation called Big TLC that raises money for various charities as well as for a basketball camp he runs, where deserving kids who don’t have the money to attend the camp are admitted for free. He also gives motivational speeches and is the chairman of three different companies: Big T Productions, Fertile Earth, and FourLeaf Films. He has also performed with the Utah Symphony and given concerts as a singer. In 2005, Thurl played the part of Goliath in the musical movie One Smooth Stone, later renamed David and Goliath, part of the "Liken the Scriptures" DVD series. While on the set, he told Carole Mikita of KSL-TV that he had always wanted to play that character.
Although Bailey is retired he continues to work spending much of his time working on his singing career, giving firesides for the Church, working with various charities, and helping his wife raise their four children.
Thurl also serves as a basketball analyst for KJZZ television.