Brief Thurl Bailey Bio: Thurl averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds during his career at N.C. State, including 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds as a senior when he led the Wolfpack to the 1983 National Championship. Bailey went on to be a first round selection of the Utah Jazz in the 1983 NBA Draft, the #7 selection overall.
He played 13 seasons in the NBA with the Jazz (10) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (3), averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. Thurl retired as one of the most respected players in the NBA, earning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award for the '88-'89 season.
Bailey now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife, Sindi, and their two children. He is now a motivational speaker for youth groups across the country. In addition to professional speaking, Thurl is a broadcast analyst for the Utah Jazz and the University of Utah, an actor, and an award winning singer/song writer.
StateFans: Thurl, thanks for everything you've done for the Wolfpack. Do you still keep in touch with Ben Parker?
Bailey: "Ben Parker's actually related to my ex-wife. The last time I saw him was when I went to see my son play in high school at Ragsdale. I don't see them very often obviously, but yes, I still keep in touch with Ben when I'm around the area."
SF: Is there a way we can have you speak in northeastern North Carolina?
Bailey: "You bet. My website is www.ThurlBailey.com, and it has a lot of pertinent information. It has the contact numbers and what I speak about so check it out. I'd love to speak in that area."
SF: Do you have any concerts planned for the North Carolina area?
Bailey: "No, I don't yet. I'm working on some, and what I probably need to do is connect with some venues there to make those plans. I've done some speeches there on short visits, but I haven't been able to do any concerts."
SF: How is Thurl Jr. doing? I teach at Ragsdale and haven't heard much on him since he graduated.
Bailey: "Thurl Jr.'s doing awesome. He played at Surry Community College last year, and he's doing real well. He's ready to move up to the next level and is hoping to have an even better season next year."
SF: Have you ever done any coaching or considered coaching?
Bailey: "I've been asked that question a lot, but I haven't considered coaching at this time. Being a pro athlete and missing the joys of family life was tough for me. I don't think with going on the road I would like to miss those things again. With how things have changed in the NBA, it's hard to coach some guys. The players don't have to listen to the coach if they make more money than the coach.
I think I'll stick to Little League where I just have to deal with the parents. The kids want to learn and genuinely love the game."
SF: What do you think is the most challenging thing about being a pro basketball player in today's game?
Bailey: "One of the most challenging things is to keep everything in perspective. Sometimes the money can really attract a lot of negativity. Look at the situation Kobe's in. The guy made a bad choice and neither his life nor the young lady's will be the same.
I think there are a lot of things when you look at pro basketball which can be problems, but the most important factor to deter that is having a strong support group around you. The transition from college to the pros and now high school to the pros is such a difficult one. Players must have those mentors there to support them."
SF: During your pro career do you recall any high or low points?
Bailey: "I think the biggest low point for me was the first time I was traded from the Utah Jazz. I had been there for eight years and didn't know much about the business side of the game. I was kind of naive about being traded and felt I belonged to a family. I remember just leaving practice that day and turning on the radio to hear I had been traded. That's when my eyes were open to this being a business and that it must be treated that way. It was definitely one of my low points because I had dedicated a lot of my time to this team, and it wasn't like they called me in and discussed the situation. The way things happened was awkward, but I realized that's a part of the business.
I was angry, but I never burned any of my bridges which I think contributed to one of my high points... returning to the Jazz. I came back almost nine years later to play one more season in Utah, and to finish my pro career where it started was definitely a high point."
SF: During your pro career what people were persons of significance to you?
Bailey: "My parents were definitely influences... my mom never missed one of my college basketball games. All those things that my parents went through to help me get to that point helped me along the way.
As far as players go Doctor J, Julius Erving, was always my idol. Even as a young boy I looked up to Dr. J, and a highlight of my career was playing against him in the pros.
Michael Jordan was definitely an influence even though he was younger then I was. He came to visit State before choosing a college, and I was one of the players assigned to show him around campus. We could have never known then that this skinny high school kid would grow up to become the greatest player in the game of basketball. Whenever I speak at my functions and tell that story I always harp on how much he believed that he would be the best player to ever play.
That's a great story for me because it's how we perceive ourselves although others may tell us we can't achieve our goals. However, if we put our mind and hearts into something we can become good at it. That guy just took the game to another level."
SF: Do you think N.C. State came close to signing Michael Jordan?
Bailey: "I think they did, but what I remember is he seemed to always have Carolina high on his list, and everyone else would always be compared to them."
SF: What do you do now to relax?
Bailey: "[Laughing] What is that? Seriously, I like being busy. I thrive on staying active and multi-tasking. I would have to say my family is my relaxation. Whenever I've had a long day at the office or return from a roadtrip… it's always my family. When I walk through my door and my kids run to me and each grabs a hold of a leg... that's my relaxation or paradise. Just to be around my wife and kids, or to spend time with my older kids in the summer who don't get to spend as much time with me."