"You're always on the hot seat in this profession," Tennessee's coach said when asked to address the subject for Lindy's preseason football magazine.
In fact, the temperature ranges from hot to hotter. It soared at Tennessee after a season-ending loss to Kentucky left Dooley with back-to-back losing seasons at a program unaccustomed to such misadventures as the one that occurred last November in Lexington.
So now, fans don't just ask: "How do you think the Vols will do?" Another question is just as prevalent: "How many games does Dooley have to win (to keep his job)?"
The hot-seat issue repels most coaches. But Dooley engaged it with equanimity at the SEC spring meetings Tuesday.
"I grew up in it," said Dooley, whose father, Vince, was a longtime head coach at Georgia. "I grew up with the 'Dump Dooley' signs and the 'For Sale' signs in our yard and the house getting rolled after a loss.
"It's something you have to accept."
You have to accept it faster these days, no matter how decrepit the program was at the time of your hiring. And neither the worst of circumstances nor the most dreadful luck is deemed an acceptable
excuse for anything less than a rapid ascent.
"I think my father would be the first to tell you there are two or three times during his 25 years (at Georgia) that he would have gotten fired under today's standards," the coach's son said.
"But we get a lot more money. That's the drawback. You can't have it both ways."
Never mind how much you pay a coach. You can't always buy your way out of adversity fast enough to accommodate an impatient crowd.
Look at all the obstacles placed in front of Dooley in his first two seasons:
A January hiring, after former UT coach Lane Kiffin made a fast break for Southern California, that forced Dooley to hurriedly assemble a coaching staff while pulling together a recruiting class at a hectic pace.
All the player attrition, resulting largely from having three head coaches in a 15-month span.
An NCAA investigation that produced a negative air mass above the program for more than a year.
Back-to-back schedules in 2010 and 2011 that were sufficiently brutal to get an established coach fired.
Injuries last season that deprived the team of its best player (wide receiver Justin Hunter) for the large majority of the season and quarterback Tyler Bray for half the season.
UT first-year athletic director Dave Hart was on the job soon enough to see all that went wrong in the loss to Kentucky.
He wasn't here to see all the mishaps and misfortune that put the Vols in harm's way against a team as incompetent as the Wildcats.
It's Hart's responsibility to put all of that in perspective when evaluating the state and direction of UT's program. But what matters most is what happens next.
The Vols return more starters than any other team in the SEC. Their schedule isn't as demanding as the last two. And despite the mass defection on his coaching staff, Dooley seems more comfortable with the new one than the old one.
"I do have a better feel for what this place needs staff-wise, besides the generic qualities you want from all coaches," Dooley said.
"It takes awhile to tell what's going to be successful at a certain place. Sometimes, you get it right away. Sometimes, you need to get rooted in."
And sometimes, you don't have enough time.