Things have been far from easy for Kentucky coach Mark Stoops the past three seasons.

The Wildcats are a combined 12-24 under him since he took over in 2013. After a miserable 2-10 effort in his first year, Kentucky went 5-7 in each of the past two campaigns.

So while speaking Tuesday at the Governor’s Cup luncheon, Stoops insisted his program is “close.” Given how far away the Wildcats seem from being competitive in the weaker SEC East, it’s unclear what “close” means in this instance. But let your imagination run wild.

It’s not hard to picture Stoops facing serious heat this season if Kentucky wins five games or fewer again. The pressure should be on.

For his sake, Stoops better hope the Wildcats reach the desired destination.